Finance Minister Grant Robertson has responded to a string of recent negative economic news by saying the economy is in a period of “transition.”
But National says the Government needs to take the data more seriously, not bat the issues away by using words like “transition.”
On Wednesday, the unemployment rate lifted slightly to 4.5% – the first increase in the jobless numbers since late 2016.
Hours later, a Federated Farmers confidence survey revealed almost half of the 1100 farmers surveyed expect economic conditions to worsen over the next 12 months. This is the lowest level since July 2012 - a five-fold increase in pessimism in the last 12 months.
On Tuesday, ANZ business confidence data show firms’ optimism has fallen to the lowest level since 2008 and just a week prior, Infometrics downgraded its economic growth expectations to 2%.
When facing questions from National’s Finance Spokeswoman Amy Adams on this in the House on Wednesday, Robertson said New Zealand is in a “transition period.”
“What I meant was we are going to transition away from an economy that even the member's former leader is now acknowledging was built on population growth and housing speculation.”
He talked up the Government’s investment into regions through the Provincial Growth Fund and its research and development support plans, as ways of creating “sustainable growth.”
But Adams tells Interest.co.nz he is simply batting these issues aside and not paying them the attention they deserve.
“Robertson is very keen on using phrases like transition to ignore the fact that a lot of indicators are showing we’re moving in the wrong direction.”
She says rather than dismissing these indicators with his “nothing to see rhetoric,” he should be acknowledging the concerns and reflecting on what the Government can be doing to support businesses.
“This Government needs to recognise there are concerns and think actively about how it might be contributing to that, but also how it can be supporting it.”
Robertson, however, argues the Government is doing its fair share in this area.
For example, he says Wednesday’s unemployment numbers show the highest employment rates on record for Maori and Woman.
“The unemployment rate has gone up from 4.4% to 4.5% - that puts it lower than what we inherited at 4.8% from the previous Government.”