National accuses Government of 'sugar coating catastrophic' economic figures

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 16 Sep 2020, 3:03PM
Judith Collins. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Judith Collins. (Photo / NZ Herald)

National accuses Government of 'sugar coating catastrophic' economic figures

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 16 Sep 2020, 3:03PM

National is accusing the Finance Minister Grant Robertson of sugar-coating the Government's economic numbers and taking a rose-tinted view of a "dreadful" and "catastrophic" future.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters described today's Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (Prefu) as a "wake-up call for New Zealanders".

The Treasury's numbers show that although the initial economic hit of Covid-19 wasn't as bad as initial expectations, in the longer-term New Zealand's economy will be worse off.

Unemployment is now expected to reach 7.8 per cent in March 2022 – in the Budget The Treasury expected a 10 per cent jobless number this month.

And short-term GDP growth, although expected to be the worst one-off drop in New Zealand's history, is expected not to be as bad a predicted in May's Budget.

But National said it's the longer term that is more important and, on those measures, New Zealand can expect a "longer and more painful economic crisis than earlier forecast".

"The Minister of Finance shouldn't try to sugar-coat these figures," National leader Judith Collins said.

Today's data showed that although not as bad in the short term, unemployment is expected to be higher for longer.

"He has taken a rose-tinted glasses view at a dreadful picture that cannot be described as anything other than catastrophic," Collins said.

And the numbers show the Jobseeker and emergency benefit is expected to jump from 180,000 now to 246,000 in 2024.

"Any short-term improvement on the Budget forecasts is far outweighed by the worsening picture past 2021," Collins said.

Act leader David Seymour has a similar perspective, saying that in the long term, Prefu shows higher debt and unemployment, and lower economic growth, as compared with May's Budget.

"It's not good enough for us to kick the can down the road. We need an honest conversation now about our out-of-control spending and debt."

Peters, who was around the Cabinet table when all the Government's Covid-19 related spending decisions were made, said the data shows New Zealanders are facing a "serious economic crisis".

"Now is not the time for the gaudy campaign spending promises being made by some political parties," he said.

"Nor is it a time when the country can afford to experiment with inexperienced decision-makers around the Cabinet table."

He said parties on the left are making spending promises that the country can't afford while parties on the fragmented right have no plan at all.

"With unemployment expected to explode voters also need the insurance of a party like New Zealand First that is wholly focused on boosting economic growth to create jobs," Peter said.