New Zealand is aiming to adopt a wellbeing economy approach in its economic policy. The Government, for example, presented the world’s first Wellbeing Budget to Parliament on 30 May 2019.

Against that background, Paul Dalziel and Caroline Saunders prepared a Research Briefing in September 2020. It summarises lessons learned in the initial New Zealand experience with the wellbeing economy approach. The authors are the Deputy Director and Director of the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, New Zealand.

You can access the Research Briefing from the Lincoln University archive here.

Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many revelations that forced everyone to reassess. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, it showed that a holistic and unified approach trumped a profit-centred individualistic mindset. Rather than just striving to return to “normal”, we are seeing more countries promising to build back better. In fact, thanks to vaccinations, a transition to sustainability, and international aid, the World Bank already predicts a 4% expansion in the global economy this year. It must be noted that this growth will no doubt be fuelled by wealthier countries with stable healthcare sectors.

Meanwhile, economic recovery in developing countries will be slower. In 2020, the World Bank predicted that these emerging markets will likely shrink by 2.5%. While this might seem trivial on a global scale, an article on how the pandemic has caused a global recession by FXCM explains that with poverty affecting millions of people, a slight recession will have long-lasting repercussions on those in developing countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about business closures, inflation spikes, and widespread unemployment. And these effects are all the more salient in developing countries like the Philippines.

In response to this, private citizens are coming together to bridge ever-present socio-economic gaps through community aid, particularly in the form of community pantries. Through these community pantries, lower-income families have received essentials in their time of need. As the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases begin to increase again, these compassion-driven efforts are helping mitigate the pandemic’s effect.

But before we dive into the details of this humble yet gracious gesture, let us look back at 2020 in the Philippines.

The Philippines During the COVID-19 Pandemic

After the first COVID-19 case hit the Philippines in January 2020, the government was quick to implement mandatory mask regulations. Soon, though, a nationwide lockdown was officially enacted on March 16, 2020. This would go on to be one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.

Because of the strict lockdowns imposed over Metro Manila and other townships and regions, workers from all sectors were forced to stay home. While this didn’t really impact the middle-class and upper-class—many of whom simply transitioned to working remotely—for the majority of daily wage-earning Filipinos, this was a serious issue.

Vendors, cleaners, sales employees, and the like were essentially stripped of their source of income.

The quarantine also prohibited public utility vehicles (PUV) from operating for most of the lockdown, which impacted their operators, conductors, and commuters. According to a Senate House Bill passed in Congress in July 2019, 70% of all trips in Metro Manila are commuters. The few Filipinos who were allowed special passes (mostly medical professionals and other frontliners) then had to bike, walk, or wait for shuttles from local government units (LGU).

In response to this, President Rodrigo Duterte enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 11469. Also called the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, it empowered the President to reallocate P200 billion to assist 18 million low-income households. Many private companies also took the initiative to send aid packages (which typically included some money, medicines, and pantry essentials), across the Philippines.

By the 4th quarter of 2020, COVID-19 cases had begun to plateau, and more non-essential businesses were allowed to operate. Though social distancing, masks, and face shields were still mandatory. By December 2020, the Philippines was seeing an e-commerce boom of 55% and the overall COVID-19 recovery rate was at 92.9%.

At the time of writing, the Philippines is back in lockdown. This was enacted after a spike in cases likely due to the loosened quarantine regulations.

Community Pantries as Means for Mutual Aid

While this response helped to control the spread of the virus, it soon became apparent that financial and food aid was necessary. As a developing country with 16.7% of the population living below the national poverty line, many Filipinos are daily wage earners who cannot afford to stay home. The government aid sporadically being handed out is also not enough to sustain most Filipinos. According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index, the Philippines ranked 69th out of 107 countries.

Ana Patricia Non, the inspiration of #maginhawacommunitypantry; Photo credit: AC Currency

And so, on April 14, a small bamboo cart in Maginhawa Street in Quezon City (the largest in Metro Manila) began what would be an inspiration for others and a notice to the government. Filled with canned goods, fresh vegetables, vitamins, and other pandemic needs, the “Maginhawa Community Pantry” soon took social media by storm.

This pantry, created by Ana Patricia Non, serves approximately 2,000 families a day. These include seniors and the disabled who have not been allowed much movement since the first lockdown. Since its genesis, roughly 350 other community pantries have cropped up in the country.

While these mutual aid efforts have been largely lauded, it has not been immune to “red-tagging”. The latter is a colloquial term for the practise of accusing others of communist collaboration. More often, there is little to no evidence of such ties. On April 18, social media showed police with high-powered rifles inspecting the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

“People will not stop giving as long as there is a venue for it,” Non said in an interview with The News Lens. “There are more people in need than those criticising.”

Since then, community pantries in the Philippines have gotten more structured. Recently actress and activist Angel Locsin celebrated her birthday by renting out a small venue and outfitting it with essentials. Non-profit animal welfare groups have also introduced “community paw-ntries” for pet owners in need.

Crowds at Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

As the world begins to reopen, countries like Iceland and New Zealand have become the standard for prompt and mindful pandemic responses, with an emphasis on wellbeing indicators. In places like the Philippines, people are still waiting for their government to provide aid and sustainable solutions.

In the meantime, the fight for sustainable development is being led by every day Filipinos, who are inspiring millions daily.

If there was ever any need for a concrete example of a Wellbeing Economy in play, we can look at the Philippines’ community pantries, many of which say, “give according to your means, take according to your need”.

For more details on Philippine Community Pantries and how you can get involved, check this Rappler list.

Feature specially written for weall.org

Written by: JBrothwell

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

Kia ora!  I’m Suzy Morrissey, one of the founders of the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub, and I recently gave ‘evidence’ to a special meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Committee (APPG) on the Green New Deal and the APPG on Limits to Growth.

The Green New Deal APPG was established to provide a cross-party platform for the development of a transformative Green New Deal for the UK and the Limits to Growth APPG is a platform for cross-party collaboration on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.  The APPG members are MPs and Peers and the session was chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and Clive Lewis MP. 

I was invited to present ‘evidence’ for the consideration of the members of the APPGs ahead of the UK budget announcement, along with Lord Adair Turner (Institute for New Economic Thinking), Miatta Fahnbulleh (New Economics Foundation), and Robert Palmer (Tax Justice UK).  The virtual session was also open to the public and over 100 people participated in the session.

In my evidence, I explained the limitations of using GDP to measure wellbeing, outlining how it ignores important elements and rewards negative behaviors.  For example, unpaid work is not included in the calculation of GDP, but the sales of weapons are.  Further, no adjustment is made for activities that negatively impact the planet, such as pollution or non-recyclable waste.

I also shared an example of an alternative approach from Aoteraroa New Zealand.  The ‘Living Standards Framework’ measures wellbeing, using a stocks and flows based economic model, and a dashboard of elements.  It draws on the OECD’s Better Life Index, with domains of current wellbeing (such as income, health, housing), and four capitals (natural, social, human, and financial and physical).  The Living Standards Framework was devised by the NZ Treasury, to improve the quality of its advice, and provide a focus on inter-generational equity. 

Shortly after the Labour-led coalition Government came into power at the end of 2017, they announced their intention to use the Living Standards Framework as a base for the world’s first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ in 2019, as well as to inform the 2018 Budget.

I worked at the NZ Treasury as Principal Advisor in the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor and was the policy and engagement lead for the Living Standards Framework.  I shared my experience of determining the current wellbeing domains and capitals and finding suitable indicators to measure them .  For example, although much of the Living Standards Framework draws from the OECD Better Life Model, we decided to include a new domain of current wellbeing called ‘cultural identity’ to measure features unique to Aotearoa (such as use of Te Reo Māori, the language of our first people).  We also included ‘time use’ because it is so important, especially for gender analysis, even though it had been ten years since a national time use survey had been conducted by Stats NZ.  Data gaps need to be highlighted so that they can be addressed.

I also discussed how the Living Standards Framework was applied by government to identify priority areas for the budget and to assess potential policies for funding.  An initial assessment of wellbeing was undertaken using the measures and then ‘bids’ for funding from the national budget were assessed against the domains and capitals they were intended to improve. 

I was delighted to be able to share Aoteraroa New Zealand’s world-leading work in bringing wellbeing economics to public policy.

Now my focus is back on building the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub and sharing the wonderful WEAll resources for policy makers and businesses on how to create a wellbeing economy.  Contact myself, Paul, or Justin (emails on the Hub page here) if you would like to get involved.

You can watch the full APPG session below or on YouTube here:


Dr. Katherine Trebeck

A major report published this week calls for the Scottish Government to introduce wellbeing budgeting to improve lives for children as part of a radical systems change in the wake of the coronavirus.

The new report, Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing, by WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Dr Katherine Trebeck, with Amy Baker, was commissioned by national charity Children in Scotland, early years funder Cattanach and the Carnegie UK Trust.

Click here to download and read the report

It makes a series of bold calls focused on redirecting finances to tackling root causes of inequality and poverty as Scotland emerges from Covid. Key recommendations include:

  • A post-Covid spending review, with all spend proposals assessed against evidence of impact on children’s wellbeing
  • Training of the civil service to ensure effective budget development and analysis, and moving to multi-year budgeting aligned with wellbeing goals
  • Establishing an independent agency, modeled on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, to support activity and scrutinise effectiveness of delivery of wellbeing budgeting by the government
  • An overarching change to the ways of working in the Scottish Government budget process to ingrain greater transparency; cross-departmental working; and a participatory approach involving the public and the diversity of children’s voices.

The report argues that the Scottish Government’s stated aims of improving wellbeing across society and addressing the fact that one quarter of children live in relative poverty cannot be met unless we create conditions for our youngest children to be healthy and supported from the outset.

To do this, it makes the case for directing funds at root causes that diminish child wellbeing, rather than targeting symptoms ‘downstream’, which is inefficient, stifles implementation of policy and legislation, and slows ambitions for societal change.

First steps towards wellbeing budgets would involve holding a conversation with the public about budget-setting to absorb lived experience; interrogating data to ‘map’ the distribution of wellbeing in Scotland; and ensuring policy development was properly connected to evidence on what would actually change outcomes for children and addressing the root causes of what undermines their wellbeing.

The report’s lead author, Dr Katherine Trebeck, said:

“If the Scottish budget is to be a mechanism that brings about change, we need to create a context where children can flourish in Scotland. Then we need to think about a few fundamentals. The budget needs to be holistic, human, outcomes-oriented, and rights-based. It needs to be long-term, upstream, preventative and precautionary. Finally, a bold budget for children’s wellbeing needs to be participatory – children’s voices in all their diversity need to be at the heart of setting the budget agenda.”

Katherine speaks about the report in more detail in this short video:

Sophie Flemig, Chief Executive of Cattanach, said:

“This report shows why it is necessary to set out a high-level vision for wellbeing outcomes and hardwire it into government processes. Countries need to acknowledge that the economy is in service of wellbeing goals, not a goal in and of itself. Meaningful public involvement is key. Ministerial responsibility for wellbeing outcomes drives progress. And cross-departmental work is essential for success.”

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“This project has focused on one important lever of change – the finance system, the way that we think about money and spend in Scotland, asking: what is value for money when we’re talking about our children’s lives? We know it’s not a silver bullet, but we do think it’s important that we consider how we spend that money if we’re going to begin improving outcomes for children and putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to children’s wellbeing.”

As the election campaign approaches, and following Tuesday’s vote to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, the report’s calls and the case for wellbeing budgeting informs Children in Scotland’s manifesto for 2021-26, backed by organisations across the children’s sector.

The report is published as Scotland takes stock of the damage the pandemic has done to individuals, families, communities, and the macroeconomy, and an increasing number of people recognise that we must not revert to pre-Covid ways of working.

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“Now is the time for us to reset our economy and the way in which we prioritise our budgets. Katherine’s work gives us a real manifesto for how we will secure children’s rights and wellbeing. We call on you to read the report, particularly the section which identifies what the crucial next steps are. We don’t need any more research or evidence – we need to work together to put a budget for Scotland’s children into place, this year, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.”

This content is reposted from Children in Scotland