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A Shadow Cabinet Custom-built for the Covid-19 Recovery.

There is growing pressure around the country to get to Level 1 when restrictions on the economy are a lot less. If you’re a business owner, this is critical; if you’re a health professional then you may have a range of thoughts.  Suffice to say, New Zealand is seeing no new cases for two weeks now. That can’t be said for the economy as thousands of jobs that are being lost every week. Here in Taranaki, we’ve lost about 1,000 jobs to date. Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen has forecast Taranaki could lose up to 5,500. Let’s hope not, because that puts individuals, couples, families and whanau under enormous strain and risk.

The wage subsidy scheme has been very supportive to employees and companies during the lockdown period, but now we need to help businesses get back on their feet. The National Party’s new leader Todd Muller has put rebuilding our economy front and centre, highlighting our focus on protecting jobs.

Continuing the wage subsidy scheme relentlessly through to the election and possibly beyond is not addressing the underlying issue that businesses have lost their working cash flow. 

As an example, I was contacted last week by the owner of a contracting firm whose workers are ready to get on the job, but can’t because there’s no cash flow to fund supplies. That is not an isolated case. By not directly assisting businesses like this, we run the risk of losing jobs that would be viable in normal circumstances. Their loss will continue to create longer queues at Work and Income offices which could be avoided by some positive action. The longer we wait the more businesses will go under and the more jobs will be lost.

Added to that, the greater burden on the Government as they pay out Jobseeker support and have less revenue coming in from PAYE and GST.

The decision to target National’s team of 55 MPs on Covid recovery should be seen as a proactive and positive move to get on the front foot. Amy Adams, coming out of retirement to oversee a new Covid-19 Recovery Portfolio demonstrates an innovative commitment to finding practical answers.

National’s MPs each contribute real-world expertise across all walks of life, and everyone is listened to as we develop solutions.

We have consistently called for financial support for businesses. Alongside the wage subsidy, injecting grants to cover overheads would keep operations running and protect jobs. The tax measures being suggested don’t come through quickly enough to make a difference.

Todd Muller has highlighted the importance of small businesses by taking on that portfolio. They are the beating heart of our communities, an essential part of the Kiwi way of life. It’s great to see that being recognised with people getting in behind the likes of the Go Local Go Taranaki campaign.

Last week, Todd Muller announced the first part of National’s plan to deal with the looming unemployment crisis, after job numbers collapsed by a record 37,500 in April. The JobStart programme provides a $10,000 cash payment to businesses for each hire they make, aiming to create 50,000 new jobs. The first $5,000 comes in at the beginning of their employment and the second $5,000 after 90 days. 

Finally, the last thing we want is for a resurgence of infections and to have to go back into lockdown. We must protect the gains we’ve made and continue to be vigilant with our health and hygiene practices.

Jonathan Young
MP for New Plymouth newplymouthmp@parliament.govt.nz

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