Today is Budget Day, and was expected to be geared towards infrastructure, housing, job creation, and small business assistance.
We are fortunate to have the advantage of food security, and by improving our infrastructure, we can add value to our foods to increase our export income. This is the single biggest budget New Zealand has ever had; costing us an eyewatering $50 billion! It will ease us through the inevitable years of economic pain. Today’s announcement of extra heath spending is generous, and funds to use in creating new jobs is good news. With the high levels of joblessness expected, there are initiatives to ease the social disadvantage of those who have lost jobs, thanks to Covid. Free re-training for kiwis in formal education programmes is a good move to improve our work-force . The old fashioned way of apprenticeships will see more kiwis in employment. The tourism industry recovery package is $400 Million, while more to be found later. Their challenge is to adjust and innovate and change their offerings. There are generous support packages provided for Maori & Pacifica initiatives.
Level 2 Covid ‘Promotion.
The Covid crisis has damaged our economy in ways we couldn’t imagine or control. Our government has had the unenviable task of balancing potential health outcomes with economic destruction. It was – and still is- a fine line to walk between excessive timidity and accusations of recklessness.
The medical community is calling out for caution, while the business world is demanding a rapid return to ‘normal’ trading freedom. Today we have tentatively moved from Level 3 to Level 2 and the advice is to Stay Alert.
I recall the old rhyme I’ve taught generations of children:
“Stop says the Red light, Go says the Green
Be careful, says the Amber light, winking between.
That’s what they say, and that’s what they mean.
All must obey them, even the Queen.”
Today’s increased freedom does not mean a return to the good old pre-Covid days. We still have that ‘amber light’ warning us that we are dangling between the ’red light’ of return to lock-down, and the ‘green light’ of increased freedom. Each one of us, (what our PM calls the Kiwi ‘team of 5 million,’) is supposed to respect social distancing, have scrupulous personal hygiene, think of those around us, and be prepared to put the ‘greater good’ ahead of our selfish desires, our need and greeds.
In the last 2 decades, the world has faced the challenges of Sars, Swine Flu, Mers. Ebola and Zika pandemics. Now it’s Covid, and it reached our ‘safe’ country through the rapid movement of people from around the globe. We can no longer count on our remote Pacific Island status to protect us from the world’s ugly viral destruction. Such outbreaks increase inequality in poorer more crowed countries which are worst affected. Unemployment rises, and the ability to send money home to
support impoverished families from jobs overseas is dramatically reduced. Sadly, the poor will continue to be dragged under debt and pain for many years to come. This warning is from International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, unrest is growing. Our leaders realise that ‘Lock-down’ cannot continue for ever, and we are urged to use our common sense in every situation. As we move today into the ‘amber light’ area of Level 2, it will give more certainty for businesses. Families will be reassured about increasing their bubbles with more family members and friends. It is a welcome step into a more normal life.
There is now a pattern emerging of where clusters of Covid are taking hold. There is a differential impact depending on age, health and geography around the country. Re-opening various sectors of the economy, and less affected parts of the regions will ease anxiety. Cities are crowded and more at risk, while our rural areas are less affected, so they could move into a ‘new normal’ level’. Younger people, say under 40, are less likely to be infected, so they could also be given a more generous release timetable.
Level 2 is a tentative step forward on the road to recovery. Every community was eagerly awaiting the Budget announcement today. The funds are not infinite and some groups will be disappointed with their acknowledgement and fund allocation. It is impossible to please everyone. But that ‘amber light’ will also be clearly in our sights, urging caution because, depending on our behaviour, the zone will move back to ‘red light’ instead of the much anticipated ‘green light’ o post- Covid danger.
As a community of faith, Nativity family, we will respect our leaders as God requires. We will continue to refrain from risky activities, and strive to act responsibly. God gave each of us a conscience, and a mind to think with. We can honour Him by our actions every day, as Covid’s tentacles stretch and envelop the globe. Above all, we can pray for the victims and their families, the jobless and homeless and all whose lives have been badly impacted by this monstrous silent destroyer. We can also pray for a vaccine to be rapidly developed and shared generously with all affected countries. ‘No man is an island’, wrote John Donne, While any country still has active Covid cases, the entire world is at risk of further outbreaks. We depend on each other for ultimate safety from this grave threat.
As businesses return to work, schools re-open, sports resume, social activities increase, may we give thanks that God has steered us through the worst of feared outcomes. Let’s continue to encourage and assist the stricken, and share with them the Words of life and hope that sustain us.
May God guide us, protect us, and keep us close in His Bubble.
In His Name