As New Zealand enters the fifth week of lockdown the focus needs to shift to the economy and people’s livelihoods.
The Government is flat out pumping money into the economy to keep the wheels of commerce turning. It says salary subsidy claims will be audited but will they and how many will be prosecuted?
Before Covid-19 (C19) the Government announced an extra $12 billion for infrastructure, mainly road and rail. Since C19 the Government earmarked another $12b to support business and help retain jobs. The economic stimulus package has been expanded by another $16b which includes tax relief and finance guarantees.
At the start of C19 public debt was US$57.4 billion and growing. With the extra spending and a falling currency against the US dollar, the debt will grow even faster.
It is good to see politicians and government chief executives take pay cuts, but it is going to take a lot more than that. Government departments, local and regional councils need to stop tax increases and start reducing costs.
Councils need to redo annual plans and practice zero budgeting. Start with a clean sheet and justify every cost.
Any use of taxpayers’ money needs to be well-targeted, quality spending which gives a good return. Invest in roads not rail or cycleways, technology not stadiums or waterfront developments. Would the lockdown have been possible if the Government in 2008 had not decided to invest in broadband fibre across the country?
One way to crank up the economy is to encourage farmers who have a solid reputation for innovation and improvement.
After persecuting farmers and encouraging an anti-farming crusade for the past two and-a-half years, the Government needs to make the sector feel loved. The Government should scrap its virtue-signalling zero carbon target. Drop restrictive centralised environment legislation and leave it to and trust regional councils and communities to sort out, as they do a good job.
Individuals with skin in the game run successful businesses not Governments and their officials.
Leave the money in taxpayers’ pockets and let them grow the country’s wealth.
The Government can help businesses by removing the red tape, overriding the Resource Management Act and investing in worthwhile projects such as irrigation schemes. Is it time to resurrect the Ruataniwha scheme?
Like the theme for this issue, the country needs to beef up the economy to handle unforeseen threats and be ready to take advantage of opportunities.