Friday, 8 May 2020

Go big

Next week we get the double header of a Monetary Policy statement (on Wednesday) and the Budget (on Thursday). Simple message for all involved: go for it, and go as big as you can.

If you haven't appreciated it already, I've had a look at how the impact of covid compares with previous setbacks. Here's the history of New Zealand's GDP growth back to 1980, and I've included for comparison the growth rates for the overall world economy and for the US. Data by the way come from the very useful (and free) World Economic Outlook database maintained by the IMF.

There's been nothing remotely like this in most people's working lifetime. While point forecasts in current circumstances are of only limited use, for what it's worth the IMF thinks that New Zealand's GDP will drop by 7.2% this year, even worse than the 5.9% they expect in the US, which has been as politically dysfunctional on covid as you'd have expected. The GFC is a tiny blip by comparison.

The good news - if you can call it that - is that the IMF is in the 'sharp V-shaped recovery' camp. But if I were Adrian Orr or Grant Robertson, I don't think I'd bet the economy on that assumption. At the Bank, I wouldn't be bothered about walking back from March's statement that "The Official Cash Rate (OCR) is 0.25 percent, reduced from 1.0 percent, and will remain at this level for at least the next 12 months". That was then: this is now. And at the Treasury, they recently showed us some scenarios based on $20 billion and $40 billion fiscal support programmes. The $20 billion programme was based on GDP dropping this year by 4.5%: the $40 billion responded to GDP potentially dropping 8% this year. If the IMF is indeed right, we need to be down the $40 billion end.

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