New Zealanders work best when we work together, and over the last few months, that’s exactly what I’ve seen right across our country.
We united as a team of five million to fight COVID-19. We went hard and early to break the chain of transmission and stop the virus in its tracks. We stayed home and we saved lives. And, thanks to all of you, so far it’s working.
Now, as we continue to play it safe to stop another outbreak, it’s time for us to rebuild and recover together. The global economic shock of COVID-19 presents challenges not seen in New Zealand since the Great Depression, but there is a clear path through.
To get our economy moving, we know our focus needs to be on jobs. That’s why, from the very beginning, our economic response has prioritised protecting jobs and keeping businesses afloat. From the wage subsidy scheme to interest-free loans for small businesses, we moved quickly to get money out the door to support workers and businesses.
Now, we’re taking the next steps in our plan with Budget 2020: Rebuilding Together.
This year’s Budget is all about getting New Zealand moving again. The centrepiece is our $50 billion COVID Rebuild and Recovery Fund, which will create jobs, get business moving and support New Zealanders.
The fund includes a targeted extension to the wage subsidy to keep the most affected Kiwis in work. In the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions this will be especially welcome in the tourism, hospitality, events and export education sectors.
The Budget also includes initiatives to create new jobs, train people to have the skills they need for the jobs we have, and support people to get into work. This means we’re investing in major new infrastructure, and also in projects like:
Boosting the apprenticeships scheme to enable people to upskill and retrain, and partnering with industry to fill skills gaps in the workforce.
Creating thousands of new jobs that help to protect our environment, including through our Jobs for Nature programme.
Investing in businesses to boost their research and development, which will create jobs and lift wages.
This year’s budget is also about rebuilding our economy better.
That’s why we’re building 8,000 public houses. This will help the construction sector get moving again and get people back into work, while providing warm, dry homes for thousands of families.
That’s why, with Budget 2020, we’re expanding the Lunches in Schools programme. This will make sure up to 200,000 Kiwi kids can learn on a full stomach, helping to lighten the load on families struggling in the aftermath of COVID-19, while creating local jobs in communities around New Zealand.
And that’s why we’re giving more support to our hospitals and clinics to keep delivering the world class healthcare we’ve come to value more than ever.
Now’s the time to create a New Zealand we’re truly proud of. Now’s the time to stay safe, lock in the gains we made in recent weeks, and recover as a nation. Now’s the time to build back better. Now’s the time to rebuild together.
THE BUDGET MISSED THE MARK
Budget 2020 will be the most important budget for the tenure of this Government. We have a Government facing some of the worst business confidence levels in over a decade, climbing unemployment rates and limited future growth. With an economic recession predicted to exceed the worse that we saw during the GFC, it is important that this budget is right.
This Budget missed the mark. It can easily been as seen as an attempt to keep the economy on life support until the election. It needed to make some tough decisions rather than putting these off to after the election.
The most notable aspect of the budget has been the extension of the wage subsidy scheme ($3.3 Billion) for another 12 weeks, which will provide much needed support to businesses and keep people employed. However, the subsidy finishes shortly before the election, which could be seen as a way to bolster unemployment numbers prior to the election. It is effectively keeping people off the unemployment queues before the election.
Despite being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, only $20 million was allocated for students in this budget. The best thing a Government can do for students is to create a strong and buoyant economy so students can get the jobs to reward them for their sacrifices while studying. This Budget does nothing long term for the economy.
The Budget effectively borrows large sums of money for two purposes. The first is to get the country through to the election so that voters notice as little as possible of the economic carnage ahead. The second is the $20 billion slush fund that has been set aside for election promises.
Both of these would have been better utilised for real infrastructure to provide a stronger economy in the future. These hard economic decisions were not made. The suggested unemployment and growth rates in the Budget are simply overly optimistic and being used to hide the true impact of the economic issues we will face in the future. This is a common trick of Governments to overstate economic growth in a way to alleviate their borrowing or deficit predictions.
In the Budget public debt is expected to increase by $140 billion.
This means that taxes are on their way. The Government has refused to answer questions on their tax intentions. It is obvious they will tax New Zealanders higher in the future and this directly affects students as future high income earners in the community. Students will become the wage and salary earners of the future that will pay for a Budget that put off any economic decisions, and was designed to try and re-elect a Government by not dealing with the real issues the economy faces at this time.