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Working Towards Higher Living Standards for New Zealanders

Executive Summary

Treasury's vision and role

Treasury's vision is to be "a world class Treasury working for higher living standards for New Zealanders" (Treasury, 2010a, p.i).

In performing its role as the government's advisor on economic, fiscal and regulatory issues, Treasury has focused on how improved economic performance can enhance living standards. This aligns well with the Oxford Dictionary's (2011) definition of living standards as "the degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community".

However, while economic performance certainly contributes to raising material living standards and will continue to be a core focus, Treasury's role as a central agency with oversight of issues across the entire state sector requires recognition that there are a broad range of factors that contribute to people's standards of living. Thus, in its broadest interpretation, 'higher living standards' encompasses all the objectives of the state sector.

In the past Treasury has acknowledged these other objectives, stating that living standards are "undoubtedly much more than income" (Treasury, 1999, p.1) and include "people's participation in social networks, community life, political choices and civil society" (Treasury, 2001a, p.13). Treasury has also emphasised the importance of responding to governments' equity concerns by providing empirically-based analysis on the distributional impact of policies (Treasury, 2010j).

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