Half of the $10 billion Finance Minister Grant Robertson set aside in the case of a further COVID-19 resurgence has been spent funding Labour’s non-Covid-related ideas, National’s Shadow Treasurer Andrew Bayly says.
The Government allocated a total of $62 billion to support the Covid ‘response and recovery’. But a substantial amount of that has been spend on non-Covid-related projects. Earlier this year the Government said it was setting $10 billion aside for a resurgence but following the recent budget, only $5.1 billion is now left.
“The Covid Response and Recovery Fund is supposed to help New Zealand deal with any future COVID-19 outbreaks,” Mr Bayly says.
“But Grant Robertson has denied this, even though Treasury’s website still outlines how the remaining $5.1 billion of the Covid Response and Recovery Fund had been set aside for ‘any future health and economic response needed in the case of a further Covid-19 resurgence’.
“Grant Robertson has also contradicted his own Budget documents. While he says he doesn’t expect to exhaust the rest of the Fund, the Budget says the opposite, assuming ‘the remaining unallocated portion of the Covid fund will be spent by the end of the forecast period’, and at a rate of $1.1 billion each year.
“The Minister has argued he doesn’t expect to exhaust the fund because the Government’s vaccine rollout will render lockdowns unnecessary. This is worrying given New Zealand’s vaccine rollout is one of the slowest in the OECD with the vast majority of our population still unvaccinated.
“If Wellington’s latest Covid scare had resulted in another major lockdown, $5 billion wouldn’t go very far in supporting businesses and New Zealanders through.
“Grant Robertson has said COVID-19 has not yet gone away, so why is he acting as if it has?
“Instead, Grant Robertson has spent the Covid Fund on a play about New Zealand’s response to COVID-19; a ‘modern approach to night classes’; water safety; funding for the Olympics; and the Government’s housing acceleration package.
“This is irresponsible. The Covid Response and Recovery Fund was effectively an insurance against the worst effects of COVID-19. But Labour has spent half of it on unrelated projects.
“If we do have a resurgence of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Grant Robertson will need to create an even larger debt burden for our recovery, debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back.”
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