National Finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith says agility and speed are needed as we rebuild the economy:
. . . Every day that the talents and energies of Kiwis are not being put to use, every day that most hospital beds are empty and normal health and education activities are not carried out, we are paying a heavy price.
The critical thing this coming week is for the Government to clarify what it sees are the steps to progressively reopen the economy after the lockdown. Is it all online commerce first with home deliveries, all elements of the supply chain feeding essential services, construction and general medical work? Then what’s next? Everything that doesn’t involve large crowds, while retaining restrictions on borders?
These steps need to be announced as soon as possible.
We need absolute clarity about what’s in and what’s out at each step, and how social distancing in the workplace will work in practice. Confusion and gross unfairness between businesses may have been forgiven as we raced headlong into lockdown at the start of the crisis, but it won’t be forgiven as we come out.
If clarity around what is safe rather than arbitrary, confusing and often conflicting rules on what is essential was the guiding principle there would be less confusion and unfairness.
If the level four, three and two system that we’ve created is unnecessarily clunky and rigid, we should abandon or adapt it, so that new segments of everyday life can be opened up as quickly as possible without having to go through a great bureaucratic chain of command to shift from level three to two.
Throughout, businesses would benefit from as much signalling of the changes as possible to get ready. . .
Businesses need to plan for reopening. The more knowledge they have and the sooner they have it the better able they’ll be to open sooner and safely.
Of course there is a risk that if we open up too soon we may see infection rates go up. The response to that is extensive testing, tracing and isolation. But as we can all see, the alternative of staying in lockdown longer than necessary is far from risk free. . .
The economic and social costs are already high and rising. There are also health costs in the lockdown through diagnosis and treatment delayed.
In the medium term, we need pro-growth policies to encourage investment. This is not the time for the state to take over the economy or for a committee of Wellington officials to decide where investment should flow.
No virus can change the formula for success. Most growth, jobs and opportunities will come from people and their businesses taking a risk to invest in rebuilding and expanding their enterprises, hiring new people, starting new ventures, buying new machines.
They’re more likely to make those investments if they feel confident in the direction taken by the Government – that it won’t regulate them to death, over-tax them or keep changing the rules.
The Government should hold off on the countless new costs and rules it was planning to impose on the productive sector in the next year or so, so that they can catch their breath and get started.
The government has a big role in the recovery, but it is not in doing things businesses are better doing, nor can it be in getting in the way of businesses doing them.
Meantime, it’s a good time to invest quality infrastructure, the innovation and R&D sector, and in the skills needed for the modern workplace.
There’s no reason our country can’t return to prosperity soon if we continue to apply agility and urgency to the great task of rebuilding our economy.
Governments don’t usually do agility and speed but governments don’t usually lockdown their countries either.
It isn’t going to be easy to get out of lockdown, it will be harder still to get over the consequences.
If the government isn’t able to be agile and speedy, it must do all it can to allow businesses to be.