Did Grant Robertson's economic strategy just unravel?
The defining quality of Finance Minister Robertson's approach to economic management the past 18 months can be summarized by the following line, which he personally wrote in an article run under the heading, "Prioritizing public health in Covid pandemic was best economic strategy", just before Auckland entered its long lockdown:
"The Government’s strong public health response proved to be the best economic response as well ... While we are doing well, the world faces ... uncertainty & volatility". Stuff, 2 July 2021
Whilst some commentators are labelling the move down lock-down levels "political", that characterization maybe unfair. The decision appears to be more related to a tacit acknowledgement that NZ has entered a period of biting trade-offs between its zero-virus-in-the-community aim and its struggle to keep our economy & businesses afloat. A trade-off which the Finance Minister was in full denial about only a short time ago.
That very denial was flatly rejected yesterday by Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, who said, "The psychological pressures of the long level 4 lockdown are growing, and the financial pressures on businesses & jobs. Families are separated, there's people who don't have income coming in .. there are lot of people who are just on the edge at the moment .. I always listen to the epidemiologists... but they're looking at it through one lens"
Looks like the Mayor's "trade-off" view was hugely influential in driving yesterday's decision. Which means the Finance Minister better think up a new "economic strategy", and fast.