New Zealand’s Budget 2020 was promised to be the “jobs budget” by the Prime Minister just prior to its announcement. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how this budget saves or creates many jobs in the short to medium term. Of course, it must be noted that there is $20Billion+ in COVID-19 recovery spending yet to be announced and some of this additional funding could be well-targeted.
There are a few announcements that will certainly save or create jobs in the long-term. These include:
An existing $12Billion infrastructure fund has been increased by an additional $3Billion. This $15Billion will be used to fund soon-to-be-announced infrastructure projects. Some 1,500 projects, totaling $136Billion, have applied for a share of this funding. This suggests we may see less than 200 projects actually break ground nation wide.
This additional $3Billion will help to plug the gap that will inevitably be left by private and council infrastructure schemes that are deferred or cancelled. So this will likely save jobs as opposed to create many new ones. However, while changes are being made to the Resource Management Act to fast-track these projects, it is still safe to assume that it will take some time for these projects to commence. This will add to short-term pressures in the infrastructure sector with skilled workers in high demand globally.
8,000 additional public/transitional homes will be built. This will undoubtedly help save the jobs of builders as some private sector projects will likely be delayed. We have already seen some developments delayed till next year at the earliest based on the prospect of falling house prices making them less economical in the short term. Like with the infrastructure boost, this will not happen overnight. The government has already demonstrated how difficult it is to build even 1,000 homes over the past two years. This suggests we may be waiting at least 8 to 16 years to see the outcome of this announcement.
11,000 “green jobs” will be created in the regions. These will be for the likes of pest and predator control and in upgrading DOC tracks and huts. These initiatives will add real value to the nation, but again these jobs will not be created overnight. Many of these jobs will also not be long-term. With predator free targets in place and limited land for planting trees, once the work is done what will these jobs evolve into?
$1.6b towards training – a significant investment will be made in training. Long-term this will definitely benefit New Zealand, but it will do little to solve the immediate problems created by the pandemic. It is also questionable whether jobs will exist for these newly up-skilled people in a potential recessionary environment. The infrastructure spending and target of 8,000 homes will give some work. However, policy and legislative pressures on other sectors to benefit from the training boost, like farming and the primary sector, will likely see less demand for jobs in this sector over time. This investment needs to be targeted to the future of work or the government needs to change its legislative agenda towards the primary sector if it wants these trainees to have somewhere to work.
Policy consultants and bureaucrats. While very little funding has been allocated towards assisting the private sector, the Government sector has been sprayed with “helicopter money”. This will certainly support the Wellington job market and economy.
What is in Budget 2020 for Small and Medium Businesses?
Disappointingly, there is very little in this budget in the way of near-term support for businesses. However, Government spending is stimulatory and there is certainly no shortage of new Government spending in Budget 2020! There is no doubt that this additional spending will help support the economy in the long term. However, it will take some time for the stimulatory effect of that spending to filter down into the wider economy and many small businesses are crying out for help now.
In terms of short-term relief, there really isn’t much for businesses (yet). However, here are some of the measures that were announced:
- An 8-week extension to the Wage Subsidy for businesses that have suffered a 50% decline in revenue for 30 days prior to applying for the extension when compared to the same 30 days last year. See below for more detail on this. This will be a welcome relief to the accommodation, hospitality and tourism sectors who are really hurting.
- A $400m tourism recovery fund. This seems to be aimed mainly at accessing advice around adapting tourism businesses towards domestic and Trans-Tasman markets. There also appears to be a focus on marketing New Zealand to Kiwi’s. Unfortunately there was limited detail in the budget announcements and it seems this fund is destined to be ‘working grouped’ over the coming weeks.
- $150m in loans to R&D providers.
- Additional funding for WINZ to place 10,000 primary sector jobs.
- Financial support for businesses to retain apprentices.
Overall, the $50Billion COVID-19 recovery fund includes just $4Billion in business support. With $3.2Billion of this being consumed by the extension to the wage subsidy there is certainly not a lot to be optimistic about in the short to medium term. These announcements have simply bought the government a few more weeks to come up with some targeted, practical support for the sectors most damaged by the economic shutdown.
Extension to the Wage Subsidy Scheme
From the 10th June 2020, businesses who continue to be severely affected by COVID-19 will be able to apply for another 8 weeks of Wage Subsidy. Applications will be open for the extension for 12 weeks from the 10th June 2020.
The qualifying criteria around turnover has been substantially tightened from the first phase of the scheme. To qualify, a business must have suffered a 50% turnover reduction for the 30 days before the application is made compared to the same period last year (or a comparable period for a business that is less than 12 months old or experiencing high growth before COVID-19).
The same full-time rate of $585.80 and part-time rate of $350 will apply. At this stage, we understand that all other criteria will remain broadly the same.
Hospitality and Tourism Sectors
It goes without saying that two of the worst affected sectors are tourism and hospitality. The shift to Level 2 is only a partial relief in these sectors so the extension to the wage subsidy will be much welcomed news for these businesses struggling for survival. While the wage subsidy scheme is not without its flaws or critics, there is no doubt that so far it has saved jobs and businesses, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors. However, many employers in these sectors are going to need more than just the wage subsidy to survive long enough to be around for the recovery. Presumably, there will be some more targeted relief in the coming weeks, but what these sectors need the most is some certainty about when restrictions will be loosened so that they can properly plan ahead and take necessary steps to mitigate the losses until they can begin trading again.
Tax Changes in Budget 2020
No tax changes were announced in budget 2020. However, New Zealand’s debt is forecast to balloon from $118Billion to over $317Billion in the next 4 years. Core crown debts alone will be well over $200Billion, 54% of GDP. This massive increase in Government debt and makes future tax increases a very strong possibility, if not ineviatble.
Where will the Additional $20Billion+ in Spending Go from Budget 2020?
As we mentioned earlier, there is still approximately $20Billion+ in funding to be allocated. The Finance Minister suggested that there will be further announcements in the residential housing space but hasn’t really signaled where the rest will go.
Perhaps the Government wants to stand back and get a feel for how much of a positive impact shifting to Level 2 has before deciding how to spend this money.
Considerable Room for Improvement
While the government has moved quickly with things like the wage subsidy to help save jobs in the immediate term, the recent announcements in budget 2020 have very little impact where it is most needed. We will continue to monitor announcements closely to see if some targeted, long-term relief is announced to support the hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses across New Zealand. These businesses are a lifeline for countless families and the backbone of local communities across the country. While large organisations benefit from hundreds of millions in loans and large infrastructure projects, the government has so far overlooked the little guys in their long-term plans.
We’re Here to Help
At MBP, we’re here to help. The government’s additional COVID-19 funding for the regional business partner network has already dried up after helping less than 1% of the businesses desperately in need. That’s why we partnered with local business leaders to fully fund a range of our services that are essential for business survival and success in the face of the challenges we are presented with.
If you and your business need a hand, reach out and book in a chat with our team. We’re happy to help however we can.