Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the new Labour Government’s top economic priorities before Christmas will be the extension of the Small Business Loan scheme and initiating the roll out of the Flexi-Wage job support programme in a speech delivered in Auckland today.
The Prime Minister also confirmed Cabinet will look to tick off more infrastructure projects to go through the RMA fast-track process over the coming weeks in order to speed up job creation and has instructed officials to start preparations on options to boost exports, including trade missions to key markets such as the US, China, EU and UK.
“The Government has two overarching objectives: to accelerate the economic recovery and to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid. These priorities reflect these objectives,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“Before Christmas we will extend the Small Business Loan Scheme out to three years and extend the interest free period to two years. We will also extend the purpose of the scheme and allow business to borrow to invest in new equipment and digital infrastructure.
“With Covid getting worse around the world and parts of Europe re-entering lockdown it’s clear the economic impact of the virus is going to remain with us for some time. It’s important that viable but vulnerable business, who may experience issues down the track, still have access to this line of credit to help them through.
“Making these changes before Christmas provides small business with certainty, especially when the holiday period can be a quieter time for some businesses who may need to access the scheme.
“Yesterday’s better than expected unemployment numbers highlighted the relative strength of the New Zealand’s economy, with fewer people unemployed here than in Australia, the US and Canada.
“However we cannot rest on our laurels and we want to see more New Zealanders obtain work which is why we are prioritising the roll out of the flexi-wage scheme prior to Christmas.
“We will invest an additional $311 million into the programme to increase the average subsidy paid to employers to take on a worker and enable an additional 40,000 unemployed people to take advantage of the programme.
“Maori, Pacfika and women have been disproportionately impacted by job losses to date. My hope is the expanded flexi-wage scheme will play an important role in helping people from these groups to get quickly back into work.
“While the scheme will take some time to fully get up and running we want to be in a position to assist business to take on workers over the Christmas New Year period if they can, rather than waiting until after the holiday period.
“This week the EPA signed off the first infrastructure project to go through the new RMA fast-track process. The Northland water storage project is estimated to create 60 full time equivalent jobs and increase GDP in the area by $9 million a year.
“Cabinet will look at further projects to go into the fast-track process before the end of the year. Infrastructure is central to our recovery plan. These projects are job rich and will help to build New Zealand back better from the downturn.
“New Zealand exports have stood up remarkably well this year despite the global slow down. Our commitment to international trade and our trusted brand of clean green and safe means our products are in high demand.
“When our border settings change I plan to lend my support to extending our trade efforts by leading a business delegation to key trading partners, including the US, China and the UK and EU, who we are currently in free trade talks with.
“This builds on our $200 million investment in supporting New Zealand exporters take full advantage of our country’s reputation and continue to do business despite international travel restrictions.
“Doing all we can to improve market access will assist an export led recovery. And telling our story of how we have successfully manged Covid to date can also help to attract international investment in to productive aspects of the New Zealand economy to assist the recovery.
“The Labour Government has a comprehensive plan for recovery we are already rolling out. These pre-Christmas priorities demonstrate our commitment to crack on with growing jobs and supporting business.”