FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson talks about the “welfare” budget in Wellington, New Zealand, May 30, 2019. REUTERS / Charlotte Greenfield
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s economy is doing better than expected, thanks to the initial economic and health response to the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said on Monday.
The government announced plans to address the potential for a second wave of infections by setting aside NZ $ 14 billion ($ 9.16 billion) from the COVID Response and Recovery Fund included in this year’s budget in May.
“The economy is doing better than expected and more open than anywhere else in the world,” Grant Robertson said at a press conference.
“We want to manage debt as tightly as possible and remain ready to face a rainy day.”
Robertson said the government was no longer considering granting ‘helicopter’ cash, or direct distribution of free cash to individuals as a form of policy stimulus for the economy, a strategy he said in May was being discussed.
Asked whether such gifts were off the table, Robertson replied, “For the future, yes.”
With 22 deaths from 1,204 viral infections, New Zealand has successfully contained COVID-19, and most recently reported cases of community transmission 80 days ago. The active case is currently 26, all in managed isolation.
Although the economy has opened to pre-pandemic levels, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned of a second wave of infections, as suffered by other countries.
Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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