New Zealand’s Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, came out in support of the country’s lockdown strategy despite the arrival of its first recession in years. The Financial Times reports that New Zealand’s GDP had fallen by 12.2 percent by the end of June, ushering the nation into one of the worst financial crises it has seen since the eighties.
New Zealand gained international praise throughout the pandemic for its handling of the outbreak. The country imposed its strict lockdown as early as Mar. 25. Around five weeks later, it took its first steps towards reopening. This appeared to be in line with New Zealand’s plan to eliminate the virus entirely as supposed to simply suppressing it. One fly in the ointment appeared in August, when a spike in cases extended the lockdown of one of its major cities, Auckland.
Robertson argued that the current economic situation means nothing compared to the lives that were saved by the lockdown’s restrictions. He additionally pointed to the recovery of consumer confidence, spending and activity between June and July in which the country had gone over 102 days without a locally transmitted case of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, the skeptics remain. Paul Pascoe of Stats NZ, New Zealand’s official data agency, expressed concern over the heavy hit that economic sectors such as retail took due to the lockdown’s restrictions. Other officials remain hopeful that New Zealand’s economy will be able to bounce back swiftly.
New Zealand elections are set for next month, in which the economy will surely be a major decision behind how people may vote.