Journal article

When is a policy past its use-by date?: Differential superannuation payment rates: a case for ongoing monitoring of long-term policies

Superannuation New Zealand
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In 2011 the prime minister’s science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, drew attention to the need for clear monitoring and evaluation of key policies and programmes in New Zealand, stating: ‘The importance of well evaluated interventions both at the pilot stage and after scale-up is critical, as the costs and implications of inferior science or wrong data leading to policy decisions are immense’, and that ‘excellent social science, if done well, can be immensely valuable. That said, this is an area more than any other where inept science or a scientific vacuum can lead to policy decisions based on dogma and ideology rather than on the knowledge needed to lead to better outcomes’ (Gluckman, 2011, p.15). He also expressed concern about a lack of capability in the state sector to achieve good science or formal evaluation of policy, saying that the deficits in how government gets and uses evidence must affect the quality of policy formation. Cumming and Forbes (2012) also commented on the role  monitoring and evaluation plays in improving government services, and the Better Public Services Advisory Group Report noted the importance of public service performance to the overall performance of the New Zealand economy and the need to ‘do the right things in the right ways at the right time’ (Better Public Services Advisory Group, 2011, p.13).

Given the focus on improved outcomes, all long-term government policies should be regularly reviewed to determine their current applicability. This is particularly the case in a small country like New Zealand, with rapidly changing demographics and a volatile economy. One example of a long-term policy is New Zealand Superannuation (NZS). There has been considerable debate about the overall income provision policy for superannuitants and whether or not it should be applied universally, but there has been less about the policy of having different rates for married and single recipients, or for those living alone. This article does not debate the need for, or value of, universal superannuation but looks at the long-term policy of having differential payment rates, and suggests that it should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it is still achieving the desired outcomes and that scientific evidence should be produced to determine whether or not this policy is past its use-by date.

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