Chris Trotter suggests New Zealand's costly elimination strategy for dealing with Covid-19 might paradoxically end up paying for itself

Chris Trotter suggests New Zealand's costly elimination strategy for dealing with Covid-19 might paradoxically end up paying for itself

By Chris Trotter*

What lies in store for the “Team of Five Million” when finally the Covid-19 virus runs out of human-beings to infect? One way or another, this was the fate of all the great pandemics by which human civilisations have been assailed. In the past, the most important question, after the immediate trauma of the plague had faded, was: “What happens now?” There is no reason to suppose that the response of a post-Covid world will be any different.

The Black Death, like Covid-19, had its origins in the Eurasian heartland and spread both east and west, petering out finally in the cold fastnesses of Norway, but not before it had killed between one third and one half of Eurasians living north of the Tropic of Capricorn. It being the Fourteenth Century, the Americas were spared the ravages of the Black Death. Six centuries on, however, it was from the heartland of the North American continent that the H1N1 virus found its way into the global human population. By the time the deadly Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 ran out of human-beings to infect, upwards of 50 million people, from Glasgow to Samoa, had succumbed.

Covid-19’s extraordinary infectiousness is a big plus for the virus, at least in the short term. From a broader evolutionary perspective, however, the ease with which it is transmitted may prove disadvantageous to the virus’s long-term survival. Ultimately, the combination of natural human immunity, the constant mutation of the virus itself, and the impact of humanity’s technological ingenuity – most decisively in the form of a vaccine – will bring the Covid-19 Pandemic to an end.

By the time that happens, however, Covid-19’s global death toll is likely to be numbered in the millions. Even a fatality-rate of just one-tenth of one percent would result in approximately eight million victims. Not much to set aside the horrors of 1918-19 – let alone 1345-1353. But, the economic cost of the twenty-first century humanity’s determination to protect its weakest members will pose the “What’s next?” question with equal urgency.

If Jane Clifton (formerly of The Listener, now safely installed behind Business Desk) is to be believed, the Covid-19 Pandemic will be followed by a new Age of Austerity. Having stepped out of the epidemiological frying-pan, New Zealanders will be invited to step into the economic fire.

The money borrowed by governments around the world to carry their citizens through the economic disruptions occasioned by the measures required to contain and eliminate the virus must, as our own Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, is at pains to remind us, be paid back. Within the political mainstream, the only question to be debated is how quickly that should happen. National’s Paul Goldsmith wants a fast-track pay-back, Labour’s offering a slightly slower pace. Neither of the major parties, however, are disputing the need for dramatic reductions in government spending.

Labour’s election strategists will be hoping that the National Party’s leaders are as reluctant to spell out the details of this looming period of austerity as their own. Remaining silent about exactly where and how deeply their fiscal knives will have to cut, must advantage both parties electorally – or, so Labour hopes!

For National, however, there is much to be gained, and not that much to lose, by making a virtue out of the necessity of austerity. After all, the people most likely to be hurt by swingeing cuts to government spending are Labour’s – not National’s – voters. Indeed, by offering policies designed to cushion the middle-class against the worst effects of its austerity programme, National could lure back some of the support lost to Labour when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s, Team of Five Million was uniting against Covid-19.

Were National to follow such a course, Labour would, at least theoretically, be in a quandary. In order to reassure its working-class electoral base that they would not be asked to bear the brunt of Labour’s post-election assault on the deficit, the party would be forced to announce a raft of “progressive” policy measures, such as tax increases for the well-off. Such measures would, of course, be more-or-less guaranteed to snap former National voters out of the warm fuzzies of Covid togetherness. Fickleness, thy name is the middle-class voter threatened with higher taxes!

The problem with this argument is that it assumes the existence of a working-class of sufficient political consciousness to recognize the dangers of austerity, and which is, moreover, capable of mustering the political will to challenge it.

But, if such a social formation existed, would Labour have dared to introduce its two-tier benefit system? The labour movement of fifty years ago would have screamed red-bloody-murder at any government crass enough to offer those on salaries an unemployment benefit twice as generous as the meagre dole paid out so grudgingly to wage-earners. The labour movement of today, however, represents, overwhelmingly, the salaried staff of the state sector – hardly any of whom relate positively to the hairy-armed trade union militancy of yesteryear.

Indeed, so great is the electorate’s affection and admiration for “Jacinda”, and so atrophied are the defence mechanisms of Labour’s working-class base, that, with just a little tweaking, the prospect of her government “going hard and going early” to “stamp out” the Covid deficit, could be presented to New Zealanders as yet another opportunity for the Team of Five Million to show it’s stuff. To please “Jacinda”, Kiwis may turn themselves into the All-Blacks of Austerity. The old-fashioned “solutions” of National’s Judith Collins and her “stuck-in-the-eighties sidekick, Goldsmith, could then be greeted with scorn. Channelling Crocodile Dundee, the Labour leader would find herself perfectly-positioned to sneer: “Call that an austerity programme? Nah. This is an austerity programme!”

It may even transpire that, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand discovers that it has come to be seen as one of the best places in the world to live and do business. The Prime Minister and her Finance Minister may find themselves besieged by international investors bearing billions. With the USA in chaos, and the City of London a mere shadow of its former financial greatness, New Zealand may find itself being held up as the safest of safe havens. Paradoxically, this country’s eye-wateringly costly eliminationist strategy for dealing with Covid-19 could end up paying for itself.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. He writes a weekly column for interest.co.nz. His work may also be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

81 Comments

10
up

Except it is not an elimination strategy because it is a complete waste of time and money when we continue to allow active cases to enter the country every day. This means that NZ is at risk of, and on the brink of, a new outbreak every day and can never eliminate it.
All we are doing is hoping and praying that any outbreak can be contained long enough for there to be a vaccine distributed, and we have a long way to go on that score yet.

Except the elimination strategy itself is a fool’s errand. How can we as a country pursue this madness when other countries have already achieved herd immunity.

22
up

There is zero evidence of other countries having achieved herd immunity (yet).

Apart from the completely obvious fact that their death rate has dropped to practically zero.

I have sympathy for your views, however winter is approaching in the northern hemisphere. There could well be another surge of infections.

And summer is approaching in the southern hemisphere. This is our one and only opportunity to gain herd immunity, normalize international travel, and mitigate the damage to the economy - this year! in 2020. Cant be done in winter. If the chance is missed then the country will be relegated to billions of dollars of additional losses. History will not treat the Labour party kindly when the magnitude of their blunder becomes apparent.

I take your point though Fritz. You know what that means though. If April rocks around in Sweden and they've endured a harsh northern hemisphere winder with little to no increase in COVID deaths.. well that means NZ (nay Labour) will have made the most epic screw up in the countries history.

19
up

As above, there is no opportunity in herd immunity, as your dream of european herd immunity is just a dream not based in evidence.

Even if there was -- which, again, there's not -- it's not clear it would be the way to go. Very much depends on your view of the timeline to a vaccine.

Yip. The point of lockdowns and flatening the curve (or in our case elimination) has always been for one purpose: to allow more knowledge about how to fight the virus to be gathered and then implemented so effective treatments are available, so that when the virus does inevitably come we're prepared for it and have total aggregate suffering less than it otherwise would have been had we done nothing.

If vaccines were 4-5+ years away then herd immunity would be the way to go, get it over and done as soon as possible while relying on the herd to protect those most vulnerable.

Since from the very beginning scientists had been suggesting a vaccine was 12-18 months away, herd immunity was not the right approach to take.

It is now looking like there will be an effective vaccine ready for widespread rollout in 1st quarter of next year. So that shows we've taken the right approach.

The infection rate, however, has not -- which it would do if herd immunity had been reached.

14
up

Except that the death rate is not zero. The US has between 300 to 1000+ deaths per day from the virus. There is not evidence of herd immunity or that supports your claim of death rate being zero.
https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/coronavirus-deaths-united-sta...

Yes there is compelling evidence of herd immunity! Here's the daily updated raw data from Sweden showing daily deaths from COVID. It's so glaringly obvious that it really needs no explanation. https://adamaltmejd.se/covid/

14
up

Low deaths in sweden, over their summer, is positive for them but it is not good evidence of herd immunity. It's evidence of good virus control.

A few countries do have very low deaths, but not the low infections you would expect if they had reached herd immunity. And there are plenty of countries where both deaths and infections are either charging ahead, or beginning a second wave -- US, Spain, France.

It's bizarre arguing about something when there's incontrovertible death rate data which settles the argument. Here's Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University making the point that places like Sweden are either at or very close to herd immunity. She also pointed out on some other vlog how irresponsible it is to suggest that they're "very far from herd immunity" as everyone here seems to be shouting from the rooftops.

You get points for consistency and determination at least. What do you think herd immunity means, and how is this compatible with significant numbers of new infections?

New infections vs low deaths is an interesting topic for discussion. I would argue that fatalities are all that matters from a govt policy perspective. More specifically "excess deaths" because that number seems free from manipulation.

My personal opinion is that COVID had a higher initial R0, and lower IFR than we thought. We know that the first cases in Germany at the Webasto corporation who tested positive for antibodies back then have no detectable antibodies now. They're probably still immune through T-cells. That's why herd immunity seems to be obtained in places like Sweden when serological testing showing only 10% of people at time time of testing have antibodies.

Look at china now. Nightclubs packed. That's not because they eliminated the virus. It would be naive to believe they could do that. It's because they've reached herd immunity already

Tegnell’s Swedish fans and our Plan B advocates suggestion that herd immunity is reached with a seroprevalence rate of 10-20%, is wishful thinking at best, which isn't supported by modelling that takes into account population heterogeneity or more current seroprevalence data.
The Brazilian state of Maranhão recently reported a seroprevalence of COVID-19 of 40.4% (and still rising), so the "herd immunity threshold” is less likely to be as low as 20% despite overshoot.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.28.20180463v1
From China seroprevalence data is sketchy, but one recent study from Wuhan suggested seroprevalence in April was only 2.72%.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.16.20132423v3
China has not reached herd immunity, despite what anyone is suggesting.

R (0) is not just a function of the virus but also a function of population behaviour.
People confuse differences between T cell and humeral immunity, T cell immunity reduces infection severity but doesn’t prevent passing the infection on to others.

Herd immunity is only applicable to vaccination programmes. It is an oxymoron to call Sweden's experiment “herd immunity” if those most needing its protection die off trying to achieve it.

Herd immunity: cull the old and those with preexisting conditions?

This is just false information and there is no scientific evidence from the WHO. No country I have seen has achieved herd immunity and not only that, people can get reinfected. Some countries have totally different societies and cultures, and they can control it. But it often means more at risk sectors are socially isolated for months or years until a vaccine.. Also countries like Sweden have far better heath systems, and so can cope with higher infections. But the difference between NZ and Sweden, is that Sweden has had a significant number of deaths due to covid. NZ has had a few, but not many due to our elimination approach, and also means that if we go our to a restaurant, or shopping we are not likely to get covid. The same isn't true in Sweden, where people have a higher risk, as the virus is in the community. This means people are less likely to go out shopping, and means the economy is stuck at a level 2.5 or higher..

Exactly,
To consider following Sweden's example in New Zealand is to ignore the impracticality of isolating 1.5 millions of at risk Kiwis from the rest of the population for >18-24 months without considerable economic or social disruption. That means all those with preexisting conditions where covid mortality can be several fold higher; all those over 65, Maori and Pacifica, diabetics, asthmatics, hypertensives etc are quarantined from the rest.
It didn’t work in Sweden with almost 6000 deaths and a per capita rate almost 120x ours despite having a better HC system than ours, the highest number of single households in Europe and less overcrowding. The Somalian immigrant population in Sweden have a hospitalisation rate from covid 5x the average. Because like other members of the BAME community in Europe, they live in more crowded conditions and work the more risky jobs; cashiers, taxi drivers, hospitality and lower paid HC jobs.

..

11
up

Kill three birds with one stone. Solve the housing crisis, fix the productivity stagnation and pay down the debt. Bring back land value tax.

Rubbish, that would punish the individual home owner more than the investor.

Aye, and local government has already bled that avenue to death.

Not if you drop income tax.

17
up

Why would you want to reduce tax on workers?

We should be applying more tax to deter people from working and instead get them focused on promoting speculative asset inflation. Look Rick, it's 2020 so we need to drop the antiquated notion people should be rewarded for productive work. Just listen to Adrian Orr's latest speech, at least he gets it.

Are you practising script writing for a Black Adder series?

Think satirical indeed. 1971 Up Pompeii was run out last night. However, the problem with lowering a income tax as compensation is that it is only temporary. For instance Lange’s government introduced GST, as the great panacea, then increased it. Then next time round, the Clark government, because a Jim Anderton made them, just racked up income tax again over the top of it. Twenty years from now NZ would have GST, LVT & the same level of income tax. Income tax is just such an easy target.

CGT with exemption to family house should be considered as just tax for any profit like any other profit/earning and investment BUT as people framing the policy have vested interest, it is unlikely that will have one in NZ.

Check how many MP have number of properties and to except them to act is........It did not take long for JA to do U turn.......politicans of all party .......

"MPs own houses, therefore won't reform taxation" is lazy. The reality is it's a huge voter turn-off for many fair-weather voters who can't imagine a way to prosperity that isn't rental properties. Unfortunately there are many of them. We got a brightline test, it got extended, but if your approach was correct, none of these things would have ever happened.

What you're actually looking at is just political cowardice, nothing more, nothing less.

Brightline test ...Is it enforced ....beiing under too much pressure was introduced reluctantly as a compromise to CGT.

If serious just like overseas buyer form that one has to fill/ declare when buying why not have a mandatory form for sellers to fill /declare, If they own any other property be it in individual or joint name or under trust / company or in any form.

Data?
How much tax has been collected from the Bright-Line Tax since 2017
Lets have it

Don’t know that stuck in the eighties is quite accurate for National. More likely stuck wistfully in the halcyon days of the Key government, I would say, the first half that is. Under 6 weeks to the election. As it stands National have scant hope of being in government next term. Think they know that and Labour certainly believes that, hence no need to put many cards on the table. That is rather arrogant. It is taking the electorate for granted. NZ is in a crisis and the people have every right to know what lies in store and how it will affect them.

You're far too charitable. I'd say it's more like they're six weeks out from the 2005 general election. The Key-era liberals and pragmatists are gone. There are no answers, there is no coherency. There's not even a desire to provide tax relief, be it administratively or at a reform level. It's rudderless. But we are all the poorer for it. The defence of the Covid19 response has shifted from 'Look at what we did' (because they couldn't even be sure what they said was happening was happening, nor did they bother to check) to 'look how much better our response was than everyone else's!'. Of course, the virus weighs up the relative merits of each country's response before deciding to spread, doesn't it. But it's been a very subtle change in messaging in the last few weeks that slowly backpedals away from being accountable for the mistakes that were made. 'Could be worse!' is not how I want governments to justify their existence. A good opposition would be crucifying them for it.

There are plenty of angles which the Nats could be taking but aren't. For example, opening the flood gates to international investment, tax breaks etc.

Why compare it to 2005 when 2002 is the obvious exemplar?

Election at the end of 1st term Labour government led by a competent woman, National with a broadly unpopular leader polling in the 20s.

National came very close to winning 2005 and campaigned on a huge package of tax cuts and a very divisive kiwi / Iwi slogan.

Good point, although I feel like this National Party is far more authoritarian than abjectly conservative so I'm hesitant to lump them in with Bill English the First. Ironically if the party vote is decimated then we'll end up with mostly social conservatives and with more of a 2002 party than we have now, and probably a 2002 result in 2023 to go with it.

Why National persists in yielding the centre and yeeting its articulate liberals with broad appeal I shall never know.

Perhaps it's an opportunity for a renaissance in National, for them to find some way to offer the younger generations of New Zealand a future other than being 'tenants in their own land' and low-wage workers, a way to be more than just government 'of the Boomer, by the Boomer and for the Boomer'.

My personal preference would be for them to adopt 'working class' principles; i.e. reward those who are prepared to get up and go to work each day by making their lives easier. Public transport? Build it. Less congestion, more productive and family time. Housing? Build huge amounts of state houses so we have healthy workers and kids who are less likely to end up on the street and resorting to crime - it'd be the most effective anti-gang strategy they ever come up with. If house prices drop, people who work have more money for lifestyles and more capital for investing and starting businesses. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Basically everything they have opposed could have been argued as something they should support, if they were actually interested in supporting working New Zealanders. There's so many votes in the centre that don't trust Labour and their spin/failure to execute but who are turned off by a party that just wants to keep us wrapped up in roads, housing and foreign ownership. It feels like I'm taking crazy pills.

Agree, that would be a National Party of some use to generations of New Zealanders, a refreshing change to where they are currently. Imagine such fences at the top of cliffs replacing ambulances at the bottom! Rewarding hard work instead of asset speculation would be a massive change.

It's such an easy pivot to make, once they realise it is their only path back to government. The question is how many years to they spend swimming up hill before they accept it?

Agree National came close. The Orewa speech ignited things & provided impetus. The eleventh hour student loans bribe rescued Labour. Might have rescued all of us too. The fiscal and nothing else matters attitude of the august Doctor Brash would have made Key’s Corporate NZ look like a back street barber shop.

If Brash had won in 2005 and put in the massive tax cuts he wanted, we wouldn't have been in the sound financial position with low government debt we had to survive the GFC and canterbury earthquakes without genuine austerity policies as seen in Europe. We had austerity-lite with two "zero budgets" but no outright service cuts.

Austerity or poverty? In this article CT illustrates his own, the current Government's, and the oppositions inability to get their heads around the 'relatively new' economic theory MMT. To sit on a principle of having to pay back the debt accrued through the COVID support packages will essentially condemn the nation to not just austerity, but poverty for decades to come.

Fundamentally MMT changes the rationales behind Government spending, where that money comes from and the purpose of taxation. Our politicians should understand that as a currency issuer, the Government does not need to tax to spend. Taxation is instead used to regulate inflation, and behaviour and should be backed with robust legislation. Until they understand those principles, as CT indicates, the middle and lower income brackets in NZ stand at extreme risk of having to bear the brunt of the cost of the Government's largess.

Groan...

Do you disagree? why?

Many people disagree, but I'm yet to hear a cogent argument as to why MMT doesn't work.

Agreed Davo. I think many of them believe that MMT cans all the parts of all the other theories that have been put into practice, when it doesn't. It just changes the basic understanding of where the money for Government spending comes from and the point and purpose of taxation. With these different understandings, the vectors of regulation and taxes are different, gaining better, fairer, and more equitable outcomes for everyone.

In other words NOTHING about the available pie changes
MMT is no free lunch

Never was. Although a lot of people rubbed their hands together in glee when they considered the possibility of fully funded Government spending programmes. Spending without constraint always has been, and always will be just dangerous and stupid.

MMT just describes what is currently happening - its no new path forward
where it doesnt "work" is currency ultimately gets debased to zero
there is an end point to just leveraging & releveraging through more promises (debt)

It doesn't H&E. Governments and Central Banks still think Governments have to tax to spend and operate on this principle. MMT changes this. The rationale behind taxation is quite different which changes the purpose and point to taxes, and therefore the vector of any policy and regulation. MMT creates opportunity that doesn't exist under existing models.

"Governments and Central Banks still think Governments have to tax to spend"

Dont think so - Thats just the official tagline to calm the masses and keep their heads down.
No one wants to know its a Ponzi

"MMT creates opportunity that doesn't exist under existing models."

Like?
Deficit spending?

No deficit spending is a side effect. No the opportunities are around what, where and how things are taxed, as well as where Government spending is best served. I don't agree with you that Governments use the tax to spend as a tag line.

But focused taxation backed by regulation could mean that housing is significantly cheaper, that wages are higher, that more and better jobs are available, and ultimately crime is less.

"focused taxation backed by regulation could mean that ..."

Tax doesnt grow the pie
Ultimately all it is is a mechanism to redistribute pieces of pie
Its illogical that all these bigger servings (higher wages / lower costs/ more jobs) flow on from this

Regulation can only grow the pie if we further remove barriers to resource protection ...

H&E, the pie cannot grow indefinitely, and there is never the suggestion that tax would achieve that. You are correct that it is a mechanism to redistribute pieces of the pie. Our interest should be to ensure that the pie is not accumulated by a small sector of the society at the expense of everyone else; something that is happening under the current model.

Growing the pie should not be a goal. We live in a finite world. Discussion must start on how to limit and even stop growth to create a sustainable future for the species. Anything else is suicide.

Can't see how any of that Chris Trotter ramble leads to business leaders of the world flocking to New Zealand.
But he does point out well the complete lack of any strategic thinking from any of our politicians.

See my comment above. National could have develooed and promoted policy to attract international investment.
I agree with your skepticism of international investors flocking here (without significant incentives). It's yet more weird kiwi insecurity masked as over-confidence.

I agree Fritz, attracting high tech investment to capitalise on NZ's relative safe isolation, and perceived 'neutral' political stance should be an opportunity for any government. the fact that none of our pollies can see this is concerning.

You would think the Nats would be ideologically well positioned to promote a policy of 'foreign investment on steroids'. Maybe it's still to come.

Problem seems to be they predominantly connect that with selling off productive or premium land, less so business investment that does not adversely impact NZers.

If you were a corporate in USA or Canada or Australia or China with $500 million spare cash to invest what would persuade you to invest that money in NZ and what return on your investment would you expect, and how much of the annual ROI would you leave in NZ. Or would you extract it out every year

How much Total capital investment do Facebook, Google and Amazon have in NZ

Too narrow Iconclast, what about Taiwan, Korea, Japan? The three you identify pretty much don't make any profits, and are simply internet, information techs. what about manufacturing and development companies?

Google parent company Alphabet today reported earnings for its first fiscal quarter of 2020, including revenue of $41.2 billion, net income of $6.8 billion, and earnings per share of $9.87 (compared to revenue of $36.3 billion, net income of $8.3 billion, and earnings per share of $11.90 in Q1 2019).

Well put KH, I think that is the big gap with both of these larger parties...
Where is the strategic leadership or vision of how we will dig ourselves out of the mess that COVID and Labour policies have created?

They have bailed out employees but small businesses have got very little and struggling to survive while government restricts their ability to do business or blanket stops it entirely,
The employee bailouts will eventually stop and will ultimately have to be carried by the economy, but labour are not supporting the economy - it's a lolly scramble right now fuelled by debt - but what happens later?
There is no thought leadership or clear vision from either majority party, just finger pointing, delay tactics and games...

Austerity? Lol, we're in the keynesian fiat world now... how many governments are showing any restraint or control on spending? other than Cypress or Germany during the GFC literally taking savings from peoples accounts or forcing austerity in return for bailouts?
Labour is keeping very quiet about the tax hikes that will inevitably come after the election - and punish the very people who got bailed out

It's clearly makes more sense (...keeps more cents) to be a business owner or investor with legal tax avoidance loopholes to dive through

There is some international tech investment in NZ, and it is arguably already on politician's radar: Microsoft - https://news.microsoft.com/en-nz/2020/05/06/aotearoa-disclosure/ and Amazon - https://channellife.co.nz/story/aws-launches-outposts-in-new-zealand-apac , not to mention Rocket Lab is already here. That's a heck of a lot of tech investment right here and now.

To answer Murray86's comment regarding industries that 'make things' - surely the aim of the game is to have business opportunities here? Web tech is about speed - which incidentally has a direct effect on things like financial markets: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/27/latency-arbitrage-trading-costs-investor...

Don't disagree, JP, just concerned that the employment opportunities are limited in those areas. Yes they are great industries with huge potential, but our Government's concern should be how to provide employment for the 60 - 80% who will not have higher level education, will not be exceptionally talented developers (IT) engineers or what ever. The ones who level school with no, or the barest of minimum qualifications. Not everyone can go to university, nor will there be the jobs for them if they did. So how do we keep them out of our jails?

Pay for itself?....more like delay the day of reckoning. Extend and pretend is the only game in town, sooner or later the holders of assets will bear the cost. The only question is whether we destroy our society in the process of that delay.

I’m reminded of the Jewish proverb “Man plans, God laughs”. Whatever plans any political party might have had at the start of 2020 are now worthless. Many of the bizarre responses to the Black Death (anti-Jewish pogroms, religiously-inspired Flagellants) will undoubtedly have their modern equivalents with conspiracy theories and weird nostrums. I don’t think the way forward, given we are in the midst of this plague, is any clearer to us than it was to people in the 1350s. On the other hand, Franklin Roosevelt’s approach of using common sense to try something and if it doesn’t work try something else, but above all try something might make pragmatic sense in the current crisis.

Cut gst to 5% on house building for 2 years.

Local and central governments like the money too much. They'll never turn off the money spigot that is resource consent fees, building consent fees, development contributions and on and on. And of course, just plain old GST for the central government.

But if house building doubled they would only have lost 33% of the gst revenue they would otherwise have attained. And in fact it would be better than that because there would be flow on effects to spending in the rest of the country. So it might get quite close to revenue neutral.
A large increase in building would benefit many sectors directly - architecture engineering, surveying, planning, suppliers, builders, councils, real estate agents...

What do you mean "After Covid"? This bug may never go away.

I think we'll have to learn to live with it. And of paramount importance IMHO is a thorough investigation into what caused it.

After Covid, with DT we will have higher chance of a major conflict with motherland and NZ will be dragged into it.

Boom, Boom, Boom. What else ?

Yeah austerity didn't work out too well the last time we were faced with a depression, not sure this time will be any different.

The value of isolation. There is none.

Chris has no empirical evidence to suggest a surge of investment. In reality there is more inclination to do the opposite.
There is a high chance that NZ businesses activity will re centre & locate into NSW & QLD.

https://www.afr.com/policy/health-and-education/business-slams-victoria-...
Business leaders accused the Andrews government of trying to eradicate COVID-19 in Victoria and refusing to listen to industries that have been operating safely, after Premier Daniel Andrews revealed a reopening plan that will keep many businesses shut until late October.

Sky news
"New Zealand provided eradication does not work"
https://youtu.be/jy2Y02pM0LA

Extraction of business from Victoria.
https://youtu.be/HV2i97o-SdY

NZ is being taken down the Victorian path, instead of the NSW path.
Raises questions about.
How functioning is MoH/DHB contact tracing.
How resilent is the MoH/DHB health operations.

# driving economic activity to Australia.

The home-page headline for this article is "After Covid.....then what? So, here's a lovely juicy piece of conspiracy theory for you.
Ask Bill G.
He said in a TV interview "...the work we have to do on this one,...I call this virus 1,......".
So this is just round 1 apparently.
In a subsequent interview he says, "We'll have to prepare for the next one. That, I'd say, (and then he goes on to state with emphasis) will get attention next time!" (Unmistakably smug look on face with arms folded).
So, no counting chickens before they're hatched.

The government is already repaying its debt just with the the use of QE. The reserve bank has said it will undertake up to $100b of QE and so that will be $100b less government debt. We should not forget that the government is a sovereign currency issuer, the source of our NZ dollar currency. We need the governments money, it does not need ours.

Good punt at the political realities we live under. This is what 'enlightened self-interest' gets us.