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.
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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.
Nearly 13,400 people were forced to evacuate as water consumed hundreds of homes around the country, turning some streets into raging rivers of brown water, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency.
Sheikh Hamdan said on Twitter, "We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family, relatives, companions and readers of Khalid Al Qashtini, the Iraqi journalist and writer, and the owner of the creative pen, who enriched our Arab world with his publications. With his departure, the Arab media loses a symbol of creativity.”
The authorities said, “Abu Dhabi Police and Abu Dhabi Civil Defence Authority teams are dealing with a fire that broke out this evening at a warehouse in Mussafah industrial area.
"Every year, over 400m tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide - one-third of which is used just once,” said Antonio Guterres. "Every day, the equivalent of over 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic is dumped into our oceans, rivers, and lakes.”