New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern interacts with the reporters at a press conference. File photo
New Zealand unveiled a record NZ$50 billion ($30 billion) spending package on Thursday to revive an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but warned it may not be enough to stop thousands from losing jobs and businesses shutting.
The massive budget stimulus, which includes billions on infrastructure, healthcare, housing and wage subsidy schemes, sets the stage for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's re-election campaign, as her centre-left government seeks to consolidate support ahead of the September poll.
Ardern said the priority was to stop massive unemployment and described the package as a "jobs" budget.
The NZ$50 billion will be spent over a four-year forecast period and is more than any New Zealand government has ever spent in one budget.
"Nothing about this time in our history is usual and so neither should our response be," Ardern told lawmakers in a speech to parliament.
Economic forecasts released with the budget cast a grim picture for the years ahead, with unemployment seen spiking to nearly 10% by June from 4% currently.
The dark outlook comes as neighbouring Australia on Thursday reported record monthly jobs losses of about 600,000 in April.
New Zealand's spending means debt projections balloon to NZ$200 billion for 2024, from NZ$76 billion in December's forecasts. The operating deficit for fiscal year ending June 2020 is now expected to be 9.6% of gross domestic product, well up on the 0.3% forecast in December. The deficit is expected to average 9.3% over the next two years.
"There will be a sharp fall in economic activity and a substantial rise in unemployment," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in his speech.
GDP for 2020 was seen shrinking 4.6% but gradually recovering by 2022.
"Today's budget delivered an economic support package that was even more massive than expected, an extraordinary response to extraordinary times," said Michael Gordon, a Senior Economist at Westpac.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday slapped down Donald Trump's talk of an out-of-control coronavirus "surge" in New Zealand as "patently wrong".
The government will drop social distancing restrictions form midnight on Monday as it moves to a level 1 national alert from Level 2, Ardern told a news conference. Public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transport could resume without social distancing norms still in place across much of the world.
New Zealand Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in the country's biggest city Auckland, after three new local COVID-19 cases were reported.
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Monday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan visited the d3 (Dubai Design District) on Sunday, along with senior officials among others.
The first international conference on nuclear energy opened in Abu Dhabi on Oct.17.