Grant Robertson, perennially exuberant as finance minister when it comes to telling the country how well the government is handling the economy, has been in top form on the subject in Parliament in recent days.
Whether the same buoyancy is being felt in every sector of the economy could be another story.
But here’s how Robertson was responding in the House this week.
On Tuesday he was saying the government’s efforts to secure the economic recovery have been reflected in the latest measure of the country’s economic health. Statistics New Zealand reported last week that GDP rose by 1.6% for the March 2021 quarter, exceeding the expectations of even the most optimistic commentators.
“New Zealanders confidence in the recovery saw a boost in retail spending, particularly on big ticket household items, hospitality, and holiday accommodation. Importantly, activity in the construction sector returned to near record levels, while business investment in plant and machinery jumped by over 15 percent. The higher COVID-19 alert levels during the quarter only had a limited impact on the economy thanks to the quick response which provided cash flow and confidence. Quarterly activity in March has now exceeded the December 2019 quarter pre-pandemic level.
“Nevertheless, the data does show the volatility that NZ has to deal with during the pandemic. This 1.6% increase followed a 1% decline in the December quarter and a record 14.1% increase in the September quarter”. Continue reading “Robertson relishes responding to patsy questions and enthusing about the economic outlook – but is he missing some grim realities?”
PM Jacinda Ardern, conceding the next three years will be very challenging for NZ, has two overarching priorities for her government: to drive the economic recovery from Covid-19, and to continue the health response to keep NZers safe from the virus.
“In what will be a difficult environment it’s critical we have our most experienced ministers leading the ongoing Covid response to keep New Zealanders safe from the virus and to accelerate our plan for economic recovery.
Sensibly, then, she has recognised the skills of Grant Robertson who has been given the task of co-ordinating the drive to regain economic growth. Besides keeping the Finance portfolio Robertson becomes Minister of Infrastructure. And his seniority is reinforced with the role, too, of Deputy Prime Minister—a role which he had previously filled in all but name.
Labour’s recovery plan includes $42bn of infrastructure investment that will create jobs and ensure the economic recovery. It also has to deliver much needed improvements to roads and public transport, to schools, hospitals and housing, while also continuing to support the regions.
Ardern, in effect, will be the captain on the bridge while Robertson is in charge of the engine-room. Continue reading “Ardern is skipper and Robertson is in charge of the engine room as the govt sets sail on a clear course with a new crew”
What’s to celebrate in the wake of the crushing blow to the economy delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Certainly it’s a relief NZ has emerged less scarred than other countries. Whether the country absorbed more economic pain than was necessary will be debated fiercely.
As ministers begin the search to fill the economic hole left by the collapse of the tourist industry and by permanent damage – perhaps – to sectors like international education, PM Jacinda Ardern says she wants “specific” and “ specially designed” initiatives for different industries.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson, in talking of the government’s “strong recovery plan”, says all ministers have been tasked with reaching out to their sector to help develop this plan. Deputy PM Winston Peters believes the fragility of the highly interconnected global economy has been exposed, and NZ must become more self-reliant. Continue reading “Food producers can do without the green shackles when they are driving the post-virus economic recovery”
Westpac is forecasting 200,000 jobs will be lost in NZ as a result of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Chief economist Dominick Stephens estimates economic activity during the four week lock-down would decline by a third, despite the government and the Reserve Bank having “done a lot to calm financial markets”.
Stephens said his feeling was that GDP in the three months to June would fall by more than 10%— “which is completely unprecedented in our lifetimes”.
The Westpac diagnosis reinforces the argument advanced by Point of Order in one of its most intently read posts: “After the lock-down the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farmers and their milk”.
This post stressed that when the time comes for the government to start planning how the economy can recover, it should be working hard to ensure the dairy industry, along with other key pillars of the primary sector, gets every encouragement to increase production.
Many of those who read the post agreed that the volume of criticism dairy farmers had to absorb because of the methane emissions of their herds and the dirtying of rivers and streams reached absurd levels and affected industry morale. Continue reading “Resuscitating a virus-ravaged economy – the answer lies in the soil and the exports it generates”