With the 2020 Election in September closing in fast, Infometrics has again examined how the economy has performed this electoral term and what that might mean come election day. Yet as New Zealand heads to the polls in just under three months, there needs to be a much greater focus on how to rebuild the economy. Jobs, and how to keep and create them, will be the defining issue of Election 2020.
New Zealand is slowly moving from the response to the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift in focus means we’re trying to understand what New Zealand’s recovery path might look like, and where job opportunities might be five years from now. In an earlier article, we looked at industry-level job losses in the short term to March 2021.
Continued calls for infrastructure investment and shovel-ready projects have yet to be matched with actual spending, but this problem isn’t a new one. Infometrics’ analysis of international data shows that New Zealand has been investing in infrastructure at a lower rate than other comparable countries for the last 30 years.
Facing the greatest economic downturn in a century, Budget 2020 was always going to present a grim picture of rising unemployment, lower economic activity, and ballooning debt. But the Budget also lays a firm foundation for the economy to recover, with spending on areas needed to both respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
The government has a clear opportunity to address New Zealand’s shortage of social housing and support the residential construction industry by significantly increasing construction of state houses over the next two years, says economics consultancy Infometrics.
A commitment from the government to build an additional 9,400 state houses over the next two years would mitigate the construction sector’s downturn, helping to prevent a repeat of the massive loss of capacity that occurred following the Global Financial Crisis. It is also an opportunity for the government to make a real difference in housing outcomes for some of society’s most vulnerable people, contributing to better wellbeing in a way that KiwiBuild was never going to do.
With the government turning its mind to how New Zealand can best recover from a severe economic downturn, an ability to rapidly deploy and execute recovery policies will prove critical to success. But our analysis shows that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, other government policies such as the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) haven’t been able to move at pace. A greater focus on local decision making, with a coordinated and integrated approach, provides the best chance for the Provincial Growth Fund to be reimagined as a Regional Resilience Fund.
The New Zealand economy faces up to two years of consolidation following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Infometrics’ latest forecasts released last week. Even with massive government intervention to cushion the downturn and stimulate a recovery, there is no way the economy can quickly and completely bounce back from the restrictions currently in place. Instead, the structural changes the New Zealand economy is undergoing will establish a new “normal” operating environment for businesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent New Zealand into a full-scale lockdown. In doing so, the government is working to flatten the curve and ensure that lives are saved. There is no escaping that this decision puts the economy into hibernation for the next month. Most of what will be achieved in the next four weeks will be maintaining an economic heartbeat while stamping out the virus as much as possible. If this plan is successful, New Zealand can emerge from the crisis sooner rather than later and thereby maximise its chances of regaining momentum in the economy.
New Zealand’s connections with the outside world was upended on 14 March when the Prime Minister announced a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for all travellers arriving in New Zealand (excluding the Pacific Islands). The self-isolation requirement was a response to the escalating severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and came after the US banned European travellers for a month just days earlier. This requirement to self-isolate will be a major blow to the New Zealand economy, as the requirements will effectively halt the majority of travel in and out of New Zealand.