Robertson relishes responding to patsy questions and enthusing about the economic outlook – but is he missing some grim realities?

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?”

Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence

It’s full steam ahead for the economy, according to the latest GDP statistics and a  Finance Minister who eagerly drew attention to the new data.

Our farm industries, generally, are doing nicely, too, thank you, in spite of head winds which include a growing raft of government regulations.

But prospects of the America’s Cup being defended in this country are in the doldrums.  That’s bad news for yachting buffs (but great news for taxpayers).

GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021, much better than the Treasury forecast of a modest decline of 0.2% in May’s Budget or (with the benefit of more recent data) economic commentators’ forecast of an increase less than 1%.

Internationally, the OECD average was 0.3%.

The economy was 2.4% above where it was in the March quarter last year.

A measure of the strength of the food and fibres sector – or rather, a measure of the government’s confidence in the sector – can be discerned from two reports released at Fieldays in Mystery Creek. Continue reading “Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence”

Nash heads south but the news was muffled by yacht racing hoopla and the promise of more state funding to keep Team NZ afloat

Our Beehive bulletin

Here’s good news from the Beehive for South Island tourism operators, desperate for an economic pick-me-up after their turnovers were shrunk by the closing of the borders in March last year.  More visitors are on their way.

Not many, mind you.  Just one Minister of the Crown and whatever entourage he might take to carry his bags.  But it’s the Minister the tourism operators most want to talk with:

South Island regions hardest hit by the closure of international borders are the focus of a visit by Tourism and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash over the next two days.

We don’t know how closely Nash’s ministerial colleague, James Shaw, monitors the emissions generated by political travel.  But Shaw and his officials do keep tabs on emissions pricing and have just announced the first auction of emissions allowances.

This news and news of Nash’s travels, alas, have been squeezed out of the big headlines by the result of a boat race in Auckland, which triggered a nationwide blast of ballyhoo and jingoism.

The Beehive was not immune.  Indeed, the PM and her team were so exuberant that they did not wait for a request before they announced they would invest more millions of our money in the next defence of the  America’s Cup.    

Among other news: Continue reading “Nash heads south but the news was muffled by yacht racing hoopla and the promise of more state funding to keep Team NZ afloat”

PM’s intervening in Ihumato land dispute (or was it meddling?) results in a $29.9m settlement – for now

Phew!  So many announcements have poured from the Beehive in the past 24 hours, it must be challenging for reporters, commentators and analysts to keep up.

While so much was going on, the Government announced the agreement reached on the future of Ihumato and the price tag which is the cost of the Prime Minister’s highly contentious decision to mollify a vociferous bunch of land protesters by intervening.  Or (if you prefer) meddling.

The figure is $29.9 million.

But we should brace for more because of the precedent that has been set.

The best that can be said is that the government books are in better shape now to absorb the price of the state’s involvement than seemed likely a few weeks ago.

The PM – notably – has not added her name to the joint statement on the land dispute that was issued today.

The signatories did include Grant Robertson, deputy prime minister, who has also issued two self-congratulatory statements of an economic nature as Minister of Finance. Continue reading “PM’s intervening in Ihumato land dispute (or was it meddling?) results in a $29.9m settlement – for now”

Robertson is comforted about the state of the economy while his colleagues get on with spending borrowed money

The first highlighted item – in a press statement from Finance Minister Grant Robertson after the release of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update – is that the economy is doing better than forecast.

Similarly, Robertson today was taking comfort from better-than-forecast GDP figures which show GDP fell 12.2% in the June quarter from March and plunged the economy into recession.

“This result was better than the Treasury forecast of 16% released yesterday and at the lower end of other commentators’ expectations,” Grant Robertson said.

Next in descending order on his list of highlights from the PREFU yesterday were the expectation unemployment would peak at 7.8%, down from 9.8% forecast in the Budget; year-to-June accounts showed tax revenue, debt and OBEGAL better than forecast; global forecasts have been downgraded because of COVID-19 uncertainties; and “balanced plan to support critical public services, manage debt and reduce the deficit caused by COVID-19” (his balanced plan, we presume).

 Further down, we learn something about the debt that is being amassed:  Continue reading “Robertson is comforted about the state of the economy while his colleagues get on with spending borrowed money”

Resuscitating a virus-ravaged economy – the answer lies in the soil and the exports it generates

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”

In the days before wellbeing our focus was on GDP – and hey, Robertson reckons we should be cheered by the latest data

Finance  Minister  Grant Robertson was   pretty  chipper about the state of the  NZ  economy  when  he took questions  in  Parliament  on the latest  GDP  data.  He reckons the  economy continues to  grow “solidly”, in the  face of  global  headwinds.

Noting the  economy had expanded 2.7%  in the March year, with   growth of  0.6% in the last quarter, he  was  particularly  pleased   with the construction sector’s  3.7% growth.

In  summary – plenty to be cheerful  about”.

He  was   especially  chuffed the latest GDP data shows NZ continues to outpace many of its international peers.  It grew faster than Australia, Canada, the UK, the euro area, and the OECD average. Continue reading “In the days before wellbeing our focus was on GDP – and hey, Robertson reckons we should be cheered by the latest data”