Now that we are in a position where social distancing and sticking to our bubbles is no longer our focus, we need to urgently turn our attention to the challenges of our economic recovery.
Unfortunately television and radio advertisements telling us to “Unite for Recovery,” while helping those media outlets gain some revenue, are simply not going to be enough to avert the current economic and unemployment crisis.
We already know from Statistics New Zealand’s reports that nearly 40,000 jobs were lost in the month of April. This was at a time when the wage subsidy was in effect and therefore the forecasts are indicating that many more people will be faced with losing their jobs over the coming months.
We simply cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is rosy. The Prime Minister getting “angry” at businesses when they have no option but to lay off staff or risk going out of business altogether is unhelpful and indicative of a Government that has no understanding of the economy. Adding more and more jobs in the Government sector is not a sustainable approach on its own and neither is continuing with wage subsidies indefinitely.
We are going to need to confront, honestly, the challenge ahead.
As the Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller said in a recent speech: “The practice of the last 20 years of working groups flying around before governments get on with helping you is over. The game’s up, including because Covid-19 has shown us that the Wellington bureaucracy can in fact move much faster when it needs to.”
Everyone agrees that the Government needs to borrow money to get us through this downturn but we need to make sure this money is not frittered away on failed projects like Kiwibuild and light rail. We need a serious and urgent discussion about our country’s future over the next three, six and nine years and we need a sound economic plan to ensure that we don’t find ourselves at the end of this crisis with a $140 billion loan and nothing to show for it.
National’s JobStart programme, which will pay businesses $10,000 for each new full-time employee they take on before Christmas, is an essential first step, as is our backing of the devastated tourism industry with our $100 million Tourism Accelerator plan. But these things are only the beginning.
With disciplined financial management and a relentless focus on jobs and growth we can return New Zealand to an economy creating ten thousand new, real, permanent, full-time jobs every month, as it was under the former National Government.
Hand in hand with creating more jobs we need to restore our Government’s books so there’s more money for schools, hospitals, housing, mental health, addiction services, cancer screening programmes and treatments.
These measures will enable us to tackle long-term social deprivation by backing our families, rebuilding our communities and providing a stronger social safety net for those in need.
We need to rebuild our communities and our economy to ensure a better future for us all and this is our chance.