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COVID19 Vaccine and New Zealand’s K-Shaped Recovery

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, November 11th, 2020 - 36 comments
Categories: covid-19, Economy, grant robertson, jacinda ardern, poverty, uncategorized, unemployment, workers' rights - Tags:

Just three days after the United States elections, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that they are seeking emergency clearance for a vaccine for Covid19, just 3 days after the United States elections. For Donald Trump that has to be the meanest piece of political timing since Chamberlain flying back from Munich in [1938].

President Trump had been promising that a vaccine against the virus would occur before the election, multiple times.

On the strength of that one announcement alone, global sharemarkets have gone upwardly nuts overnight, and look set to continue.

But if this looks like a new dawn to those putting out the media releases today, let’s not forget that this is the accelerating point of the K-shaped recovery we have been dreading.

Our already rich are on the line heading upwards. They are getting richer because of a range of our Government policies.

On the way down are renters, beneficiaries and the working poor who are all getting poorer because their rents are rising, their incomes are falling, and they have received barely any more help than they got before the pandemic.

So there’s two upward parts to this fast sorting mechanism.

The first is property. If you have good equity and own property, you will be seeking to buy more now while interest rates are so low. Interest rates are, after this news of a potential vaccine, unlikely to go lower.

The second is Kiwisaver. If you have over $150,000 in Kiwisaver now, as the sharemarket goes through a boom for the next couple of years of economic recovery, you may well find yourself doing pretty well.

With those two elements in place, you may be simply feeling secure enough to ride out a job loss. Maybe help out relatives who are not in such a position. Maybe just cut back on expenses and retire early.

Then there’s most of New Zealand on the downward parts to the K.

Rents are going up. No one is getting salary increases. Job insecurity is increasing.

It’s softened from being a straight vertical fall by the $25 per week increase for those on the main benefit, and by the planned legislated increase to the minimum wage next year. So beneficiaries get about $500m more across all of them, and those on Working For Families get an extra $32m. The government supported businesses by spending $13 billion on wage subsidy payments.

Our Government gave business 26 times more direct support than it gave to beneficiaries during the crisis.

This assistance in recovery for business rather than directly to workers is set to continue.

The first Cabinet decision of the new Labour Government was as of yesterday a three year extension of the Small Business Loan scheme interest free for two years.

Nearly 100,000 businesses have received a loan to date, totalling $1.6 billion. During the crisis, each business owner got on average around $17,000.

So we can see the direction that this government is taking pretty clearly, and it is towards supporting business rather than workers, in the expectation that this will flow through to the economy generally.

So how’s the results?

From the September quarter, when the main policy actions were at their strongest, there were 37,000 more unemployed people – an increase of 32.5% since the June 2020 quarter. This is the highest quarterly rise in unemployment since these records began in 1986. The under utilisation rate grew to 13.2%.

With this amount of support for business, there will be few complaints from the business community spokespeople.

And now for the banks, who provide the most vocal commentators on our economy. In the last six months during the crisis, banks saw their capital requirements relaxed, their lending restrictions relaxed, and they were offered guarantees funded by the Government to encourage lending to businesses. We won’t expect them to complain then either.

Bank economists from ANZ show that it is the rentier classes who are doing great, and the actual workers – particularly women – doing really badly.

The housing market and anything to do with property such as building consents are doing great. And to be frank if you have a good job that is flexible and you can work from home, most businesses are giving more flexibility and it’s a breath of fresh air.

But those businesses outside of the rentier class and who earn us export dollars – like the devastated tourism, international education, and horticulture sectors – are facing significant economic and commercial headwinds. Young women who dominate employment in the retail and food services sector have seen 29,000 fewer people employed since March this year. And it’s going to get worse for them.

On top of that, the Reserve Bank pledged to print up to $100 billion to buy back Government bonds over the next two years in an attempt to keep those interest rates low. Business and property owners are destined to get cheap money for as far into the future as the eye can see.

In terms of shifting our economy to something more productive, more sustainable, and more likely to generate higher salaries and better prospects, Government’s main policy moves are taking us in exactly the opposite direction of where we need to go.

For those on the upward side of the K tick, those with property and shares in Kiwisaver, you are going to make bank on increasing rents, increasing property prices, and tax-free capital gains. Lest we need reminding from Max Rashbrooke, we are an exceedingly unequal society, with the wealthiest tenth owning about 20% of our net worth, and the poorest half of the country having less than 5%.

For those on the downward side, the consequences of the Government’s 2020 policies are that there’s little here National wouldn’t have done to them.

This Government is supporting the rich to get richer, not the poor. And it’s accelerating.

36 comments on “COVID19 Vaccine and New Zealand’s K-Shaped Recovery ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    The Munich deal was in 1938… 😉

    [Thanks I have corrected – MS]

  2. I just posted this on Open Mike but it's just as applicable here.

    From No Right Turn:

    "Meanwhile, Labour has ruled out a wealth tax, a capital gains tax, or any increase in taxation beyond their derisory re-imposition of a (low) top tax rate on people who earn more than backbench Labour MP's. The message is clear: their "kindness" extends only to rich people, who will be exempted from paying their fair share of the costs of the pandemic (or society in general). As for poor kids, they can keep on starving. Which once again invites the question: what is Labour for, exactly, if they're not going to ever deliver anything?"

    My bold.

    A government with an overwhelming mandate delivering underwhelming 'change.'

    • Stunned Mullet 2.1

      In your opinion what is rich people's fair share ?

      How do you define a rich person ?

      • Drowsy M. Kram 2.1.1

        Nice one Stunned, two 'critical' questions that will be exercising rich and poor unalike. The wealthy will generally be pretty comfortable waiting for answers; the underclass not so much.

        In her essay below, Liang describes poverty as a “heritable condition” that perpetuates and amplifies through generations: “It is also not hard to see how individual poverty flows into communities and society, with downstream effects on economics, crime and health, as well as many other systems. Loosen one strand and everything else unravels.

        A Kete Half Empty

        Poverty is your problem, it is everyone’s problem, not just those who are in poverty. – Rebecca, a child from Te Puru

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.2

        Rich person = anyone with passive income.

        Passive income = income that they didn't work for i.e, shareholders and owners of rental property.

        Paying their fair share is wrong as the government doesn't even need an income.

        Instead we should be looking at a fair share of the total income of the country which would require a maximum income, the removal of passive income and the closing of loopholes in the tax system that allow rich people to avoid paying the taxes that they should be paying.

        Do that and then we could have a fair income system and the removal of income taxes.

  3. Rosemary McDonald 3

    I guess the honeymoon is over then?

  4. Pat 4

    They are trapped by the (developed) worldwide credit growth model and lack the courage (and imagination) to row against the tide….and in the medium term I'm not sure they would be thanked by anyone if they did

    Until such time as one of the major players changes course I suspect the lack of courage will remain.

  5. Sabine 5

    The government supported the workers of this country with the 'Wage Subsidy'. Honestly it can not be so hard to finally get that right.

    The wage subsidy did "benefit" a few very large businesses – all smaller and micro businesses used the wage subsidy as it was intended, pay the wages of its staff and keep them on the books rather then send them all into unemployment starting with the first lockdown. Same with the two – class system of unemployed, Covid or not, that increased Covid unemployment benefit will now run out in December – just for christmas – for those last lucky ducky that lost their jobs in October, loose it in November and yer shit outta luck.

    It is called 'flattening the unemployment curve' and it did what was expected. It was never fair, ripe for abuse, but hey, such is life, and no one could have predicted that the big box businesses would abuse the Treasury. s/

    Labour was quite clear what it was not going to do,

    – it was not gonna raise taxes in any meaningful way – the increase in the taxes for those at 180.000 is laughable in its mendacity and will never make any meaningful money for the treasury – but surely Robertson felt good when he announced it,

    -it will not increase the benefits for beneficiaries in any meaningful way,

    -it will not decouple the right to unemployment benefits from a partnership/marriage – thus harming mainly women who lost their jobs( and so far the biggest impact of unemployment is born by women- but we don't talk about that too) but have a partner still with a job – an archaic rule if ever there was one – sorry lady, you go ask your partner for your next mealticket, but it will dispense kindness and gentlenessness with a catapult for all those that don't like what they see happening

    – and the poor kids of this country, the kids that are poor because their parents are poor, will maybe get a free meal in school – hopefully before next year when the full roll out to freed some 200.000 kids is to be completed.

    All of this was known before the election. Why so surprised now?

    • Rosemary McDonald 5.1

      All of this was known before the election. Why so surprised now?

      Agreed. Beggars belief that those Labour loyals didn't see this.

      Too late now…another three years of the most vulnerable being told 'Wait, your day will come…'

    • And Air NZ (sorry Walmart Airlines) is using Government Money to pay bonuses.

      I thought that they were told that they couldn't have the wage subsidy and pay bonuses.

      • Tricledrown 5.2.1

        Facts please the govt set up a $900 million loan facility for Air NZ they haven't used much of it only $100 million.

        The fact air NZ paid dividends to shareholders is misunderstood because the govt is a 51% shareholder so while they give Air NZ a cheap loan to help keep them afloat because going bankrupt the govt would loose even more money but the govt gets 51% of the dividends plus tax from GST and profit.

        Air NZ going bankrupt would have dire consequences for our economy.

        The Walmart comment is an ignorant comment The former CEO of Walmart changed the employment culture at Walmart from Zero hrs and minimum wage to permanent and decent wages.

  6. weka 6

    It’s softened from being a straight vertical fall by the $25 per week increase for those on the main benefit…

    Is that true though? Labour increased the base rate of benefits, but some beneficiaries getting TAS won't get the full $25. I remember at the time beneficiaries saying they got a few dollars.

    What useful economic analysis would look like if we want to understand the actual situation for beneficiaries:

    1. the figures of how many beneficiaries got how much in their bank account (do it in brackets of $5 or whatever)
    2. how much rents have gone up since then.

    Not sure if other supplementary benefits affected the 'in bank account' amount, or earnings/abatement, it's a complicated system (how benefits get calculated).

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      I remember at the time beneficiaries saying they got a few dollars.

      What's published is called the headline rate. What's not published is the formulation that determines how much of that headline rate that a person will get.

      Pretty close to nobody will get the headline rate.

      A large problem with the headline rate is that after its published the rentiers will put rents and other prices up to capture that $50 for themselves thus ensuring that the majority of people that receive it will be worse off.

      What useful economic analysis would look like if we want to understand the actual situation for beneficiaries:

      ZOMG, you want the government to make decisions based upon facts rather than reckons and feels.


  7. weka 7

    This Government is supporting the rich to get richer, not the poor. And it’s accelerating.

    No shit. What do you think should be done about that? Because it was obvious before the election that this was the state of play, so I can only assume that Labour voters are in fact ok with the situation, or they believe that Labour can be convinced to change its fundamental approach. I'd love to know how.

    • Rosemary McDonald 7.1

      I can only assume that Labour voters are in fact ok with the situation,

      I await with bated breath a response from the on- site Labour/Jacinda supporters, especially now they can no longer blame Winston.

  8. AB 8

    These trends were present pre-Covid. So the brilliance and rigour of Labour's response to Covid – for which we should be grateful and for which they were rewarded at the election – has enabled BAU to continue and perhaps accelerate. A deep irony, given how those who benefit most from BAU lambasted Labour's Covid response as excessively harsh and damaging to business – they couldn’t even recognise that their own arses were being saved.

    Ardern (as I have said before) is the most talented third-way politician seen anywhere – but her brilliance doesn't make it any less of a dead-end. I don't see any way out of it, unless some pennies drop as Ardern thinks about her legacy, and they surprise us.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1


      The only way out of it that I see is the inevitable collapse of society brought about by capitalism.

      Going to kill a lot of people but it might alleviate climate change somewhat.

    • greywarshark 8.2

      As Sir Humphrey explains to PM Jim Hacker government's purpose is to enable government to continue.

  9. RedLogix 9

    Well a lot depends on whether you want to bend the upper K branch downward, or lift the lower one up.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    On the strength of that one announcement alone, global sharemarkets have gone upwardly nuts overnight, and look set to continue.

    Bludgers looking to bludge on the desperation of everyone else.

    So we can see the direction that this government is taking pretty clearly, and it is towards supporting business rather than workers, in the expectation that this will flow through to the economy generally.

    Based upon the very wrong assumption that its business that supports the community rather than the fact that its the community that supports business. If a business has no customers then it collapses and those customers are the community. The community cannot collapse except through stupid decisions by government or natural disasters.

    In terms of shifting our economy to something more productive, more sustainable, and more likely to generate higher salaries and better prospects, Government’s main policy moves are taking us in exactly the opposite direction of where we need to go.

    The government is moving in the way that capitalism demands that it move – to protect the capitalists. It will, inevitably, destroy the community as capitalism has always done.

  11. ken 11

    And kiss goodbye to all that cannabis tax money too.

  12. greywarshark 12

    In case Ad didn't explain:

    A Kshaped recovery occurs when, following a recession, different parts of the economy recover at different rates, times, or magnitudes. … This type of recovery is called Kshaped because the path of different parts of the economy when charted together may diverge, resembling the two arms of the Roman letter "K."Sep 30, 2020 K-Shaped Recovery Definition – Investopedia

    I haven't read much of the post because I suddenly thought of my conclusion that we have been moving in different directions for years. House prices are outside the inflation measure that applies to the rest of us. And seeing that Treasury and the Reserve Bank's main mission is to control inflation, that means that house prices can jump up to the moon and our spending power goes down when it comes to housing which we all need.

    So some financial PR thinking up a new jazzy name for some theory is just a crock of recycled rubbish.

  13. WeTheBleeple 13

    So much of the government's 'relief' is just paying off the mortgages of those who have property, then they in turn make money hand over fist doing nothing.

    Sure seems to be deepening the divide, while heating up the housing market.

    Two tiers of benefits.

    No CGT (Winston as scapegoat)

    No cannabis (Public as scapegoat)

    No idea?

    Where is the transformation?

    Where is the nuclear moment?

    Housing is the only game in town. Our movers and shakers are a tedious pack of pot bellied pretenders.

  14. left_forward 14

    global sharemarkets have gone upwardly nuts overnight, and look set to continue

    The premise of your OP seems to depend on your claim that the market went nuts – a little upward correction after weeks of significant decline – definitely no nuts!

  15. Ian 15

    The covid queen is talking marraige. It's all going fine folks. I notice that the Auckland council is down a bit in income. Apparently the Divi's from the airport and port are not what they used to be. Don't worry,Adrian will just print more money to fill the gap.

  16. Tricledrown 16

    Most of the rise in unemployment is from tourism and hospitality to say the wage subsidy and business loans are a waste of time have no factual basis small businesses employ 85% of NZers.I know many small businesses and most would have shut up shop by now if not for these initiatives ie the fruit and vege shop lost all his stock due to the shutdown they couldn't claim the wage subsidy but were able to claim the interest free loan to restock their shop and stay in business.

    NZ hasn't faced an economic shock of this magnitude since the great depression 1920-1936.

    The countries economic indicators are looking much better than any Bank economist or National ACT talk back host doomsayers.

    NZfirst had a big say in how benefit increases were handled still they were the biggest permanent increases in the OECD Australia gave much higher short term increases which are running out now.

    Grant Robertson has barely put his feet under the table let's see what they do with this massive majority before bagging them.

    But if they don't then I will be in the chorus giving them hell.

  17. Cricklewood 17

    Unless drastic action is taken this inequality is going to be locked on for generations.

    If you aren't in the housing market now you are fucked and so are your kids, my shitty townhouse has sky rocketed in so called value by 300k in the last 3-4 years, way more than my wages in the same time period. In the same complex rent is far greater than my mortgage payment. When the time comes i'll be able to leverage to help my daughter into a home. If i didnt have this I wouldnt have a hope in hell.

    As I see it Labour has a mandate to help the working classes, the under employed and the unemployed.

    If a majority Labour govt sits on hits hands supporting the land owning/business owning class this term i'm done with voting. Will prove its a complete waste of time.

  18. Maurice 18

    $100 BILLIONS dumped into the 'economy' … where else do we expect it to wash up but into the housing prices?

    • Tricledrown 18.1

      The number of building permits is at record levels so there is one positive out of the negatives of record high Rent and house prices. Housing supply is increasing at a rate to go beyond the demand for the first time in 20 years so if the number of house builds keeps up to this level eventually house supply will meet demand.Forcing prices down.The other positive is this level of house building will keep unemployment down.

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