Wellington, August 2, 2020
Through the hard work of our team of five million and with the leadership of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand has done so well in recent months.
We are the only country to have eliminated Covid-19 from the community and we have amongst the lowest rate of serious illness and death. Because of this, we are able to move forward with our economic recovery and rebuild.
As the global pandemic continues to rage it is important to not put this progress at risk.
We need a government that is focussing on things that matter to New Zealanders.
Response and Recovery
We have a plan to guide New Zealand’s recovery and rebuild, the work is underway and it is important we keep moving.
The emphasis of this year’s Budget was the $50 billion Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Investments from this fund are already protecting jobs, creating new ones, helping workers to upskill or retrain, and supporting the sectors affected most.
Treasury forecasts that these investments could bring unemployment back to pre-Covid levels within two years and have the economy growing again as early as next year.
But they are possible only because of the discipline the government showed early on in meeting the Budget Responsibility Rules and getting debt below 20% of GDP.
Edge to invest
That low debt that we had pre-Covid has given us considerable edge to invest and stimulate the economy. But we know that we have to pay back this debt.
That is why we continue to make the investments carefully with an eye to the future.
Last week, the Finance Minister made it clear that our responsible approach to managing the government’s books pre-Covid has not changed.
We are making sure that we are balancing the need to support businesses and households through the worst of this economic shock, while managing debt tightly, and keeping funds in reserve for any future rainy days.
The government has decided not to spend the remaining $14 billion from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund before the election. It will be set aside to use if we need it, especially if we have to deal with a second wave of the virus.
Our Finance Minister was firm that if this money was not needed, we do not have to spend it.
He was very clear that there are strict criteria for accessing the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. We will not be using it for political projects a decade away at the expense of making sure that we can invest immediately to protect New Zealanders from a second wave.
Strong border controls
Our strong controls at the border continue to stop the virus spreading through New Zealand, and there remains no evidence of any cases in our communities.
But with Covid-19 now exploding beyond our borders, and likely to be around for some time, we must be prepared for the worst.
I think this reflects the government’s priorities more broadly.
When asked recently about the upcoming election, the Prime Minister responded, “My focus, my time, my energy, is going into our Covid-response and that is what it should be. I think that right now politicking does not matter much to New Zealanders. They want to know that we are focused on Covid and I can assure them that we are.”
I am proud to be a part of a team that is focused on the things that matter: keeping New Zealanders safe, while minimising the ongoing impact of the virus.
Let us keep moving.
Michael Wood is Member of Parliament elected from Mt Roskill and Senior Government Whip.