Asia News Mar 17

New Zealand unveils $7.3-bn pandemic response

Package focuses on wage subsidies, tax breaks and a boost to healthcare

New Zealand unveils $7.3-bn pandemic stimulus package
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government has unveiled a US$7.3-billion package in response to the coronavirus crisis. Photo: AFP 

New Zealand announced a NZ$12.1 billion (US$7.3 billion) stimulus package on Tuesday to counter the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson conceded "recession is almost certain" but said the package – which focuses on wage subsidies, tax breaks and a boost to healthcare – would help cushion its impact.

Robertson likened the government's response to a defensive tackle from the country's famous All Blacks rugby union team.

"We are in for a fight against an outside force beyond our control that is wreaking havoc around the globe, we are up for that fight," he told parliament.

"There is no better defensive line than the All Blacks and it is just the same with our people as we face this virus."

He said the package was just the first step in the government's economic response, with further stimulus set to be announced in the annual budget in May.

Wage subsidies for businesses hit by a virus-induced downturn total NZ$5.1 billion, while welfare recipients will receive about NZ$2.8 billion in additional payments.

Business tax breaks also total about NZ$2.8 billion, with the balance going to measures such as additional healthcare and a $600 million package for the aviation industry.

Robertson said the aviation support did not include direct government subsidies for Air New Zealand, which on Monday announced it was scaling back to a skeleton operation throughout the crisis.

AFP