Posted by John Terris
It’s all happening around me but not to me, which is fine by me.  People are behaving badly , but I’m not among them, such a relief.  The long arm of the law has reached out to grab a number of people trying to make a run for freedom from Lockdown.  I sneakily admire such high jinx but is it really worth the bother?  I mean hiring lawyers and ruining your CV?
Now there are predictions that the number of unemployed will ramp up to more than 200,000 so I guess having a good CV will become important in the foreseeable future.  There is going to be a big downturn in the Tourism industry, and not just ours either so we won’t be able to go for holidays in the tropical sun for a while.  Shouts of joy from those among us who want us to go carbon-free do not console me, especially now that going by sea in those sleek giant people - containers has turned out to be a health disaster.  Too many people – too little room.
The official picture presented by Treasury this week depends on who you ask.  Radio NZ says as I write this: “Unemployment can be kept below 10%”.   Posted on the Internet at the same time, Stuff declares (or maybe more accurately TRUMPETS) “Treasury models paint dire economic picture, mass unemployment.”  Who is right?  We’ll never know until it happens.
So we are now heading back to the 60s, (no, please, no) when we were tunefully enjoined, “Don’t Leave Town Till You’ve Seen the Country.”  Tra-la-la.
Hang on a minute.  Wasn’t the tourist industry going to be decimated by Covid.  60% of tourism is internal anyway, apparently, it’s you and me on holiday, so that’s a hefty proportion of the total that is still there.  So some jobs will disappear from that industry, for certain and sure, but not all surely?  Haven’t half of them – young back-packers from Europe – already gone back in their home countries, being among the 60,000 or so people on temporary work visas, who worked in the now closed bars and cafes of Queenstown and Queen Street, who have left NZ as the Lock-down closes in, to be with their families and friends back home?
Back in the Great Depression, the unemployed rate ranged between 15 and 30% but surely that nightmare scenario doesn’t take into account the job retention schemes which are up and running everywhere as the Government tries to splash the cash to head off a complete shutdown in NZ Inc.  And while the banks were going bust back in the 1920’s, today they’re lining up to offer loans to anybody and everybody (though I note at interest rates well above the current official rate of near zero)
So the jobless will multiply for sure but the Government and the financial system itself is of a different mindset to those of the 20’s and early 30’s, whose response to economic depression was stringency, stringency and more stringency, accompanied by work camps, building roads and bridges.  Oh dear, wasn’t Grant Robertson talking the other day about a massive infrastructure spend to soak up the unemployed?
Are we Heading for Hell in a Handcart??  Unfortunately, we just don’t know.  I suspect a lot will rest on that Kiwis Can-Do thing.