15 May 2020

National calls for international education sector revival to help economy

11:03 am on 15 May 2020

The National Party is questioning the government's big $50 billion spend to fight Covid-19 along with its intention to hold onto the unspent $20b just before the election.

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Paul Goldsmith. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

National's Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith told Morning Report two questions that stood out from the Budget were: "Are we making it worse? What's the path out?"

He said there should be a focus on opening up the economy including getting "international education back up and running for the second half of the year, getting that trans-Tasman bubble going".

Looking at the Budget he said there had been a "colossal amount of spending but ... with no detail about what you're going to do ... $400 million for tourism, nobody knows what that's for".

"The point is having a sense of direction and investing the money in things that will make the economy grow faster."

National suggested lifting the tax write off of new investment and businesses.

He said small businesses have had to shut shop for nearly two months and there was no rent relief, GST returns, or much aid in the Budget for them to start reinvesting in their business.

"Extending the wage subsidy for a couple of months makes sense, I do think there would be a question about whether you can keep doing that for 18 months. You'd want to use those people doing productive things for a year rather than waiting forever."

National has also accused the government of holding the remaining $20b to spend just before the election.

Grant Robertson delivers Budget 2020.

Grant Robertson. Photo: Pool / STUFF LTD

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Morning Report the government wanted to work on income support for lowest-income New Zealanders.

He said it was responsible to leave some of that funding aside depending on where the virus goes.

"That's been left on the table for two reasons - we need to be aware that the possibility exists that there is a second wave of infections. Secondly, it's about the long term rebuild of New Zealand. Much of that expenditure will happen well past the election."

He didn't rule out a cash injection at a later date, but that was only if there was confidence that New Zealanders would spend it to stimulate the economy, and not just pay off debt.

As for the extension of the wage subsidy scheme, it was targeted to the tourism, retail and hospitality, he said.

Raising taxes was not in the plan currently, the finance minister said.

He said the debt would start to decrease once the economy was up and running again.

"My focus is on helping New Zealanders get through this, create new jobs ... new high paying jobs."

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