[Unfortunately, the hyperlinks in ianupnorth’s guest post were lost in sending.]
In recent weeks there have been the usual responses to various topics on The Standard from right wing posters, denouncing any form of ‘socialism, decrying income tax rates and generally offering a case for the argument of ‘you reap what you sow’.
In offering some balance I looked up a few stats on here – I find it a pretty easy to search and reliable source of comparative information. Anyway, why pick on the Belgian’s? Why not? They tend to be the butt of much of Europe’s collective humour – the French and Dutch treat those from Benelux in a similar way that the Aussie’s mock Kiwi’s. Need more? Well, for many years they have had one of the most convoluted and pluralist government systems, not unlike the NZ system, similar numbers of small parties and frequent coalitions.
Add to this they have three languages (OK so one of our official ones is NZ sign language), lots of regional factions, including protections for the minority Francophile community and you have a smallish country that has similar problems to NZ.
OK, so there are big differences – they are connected very well to mainland Europe and are part of the EU, but the differences don’t end there..
So what did I find out in my half hour play session comparing NZ and Belgium.
1. We have no equivalent of Inspector Cluseau, have 2000 more prison in-mates despite having double the population; their classes in their schools have approx. 4 less per children, their, their infant mortality is far less, they spend 25% more per capita on health than NZ.
2. We are near the bottom of the table for welfare paid as a percentages of GDP; but conversely those countries like Belgium, where income tax is considerably higher and the welfare paid is much higher
3. Despite having well over double the population, they only have 25% more people in prison
4. Their schools have approx. four children less per class
5. Belgium’s child abuse stats are half of NZ’s
6. Their infant mortality is far less
7. They have just 11% of their population classed as obese, compared with nearly 21% here
8. They spend 25% more on health care than NZ
9. They have 1000 less teenage pregnancies, despite having double the population (of course according to the right that is because we have the DPB)
10. Now here’s the clincher, and where the current “use the markets to correct the problems’ ideology doesn’t stand up; the stats show NZ is 7% more efficient than Belgium – yet Belgium out performs NZ on an array of societal measures.
So the logic goes that if you go for a low tax model it is proven that you deprive those in need from the things that actually improve the well-being of the whole country. If you remove safeguards you create other problems. Better education equates to better health – fact; if you have better education your earning potential is improved – fact. And guess what if you are more employable you are more likely to be in demand, have a job and guess what, you end up paying more tax. So consequently the government’s revenue is improved and they are able to provide robust, evidence based services for all (a la Prof. Peter Gluckman).