Addressing the nation in Maori last night, he said the government didn’t know how long the Covid-19 crisis would last – but it could be six to nine months.
He expanded on a statement he’d made the previous night in English: he did not know how long it would take to get a cure for the sickness afflicting the nation, he said, and for tourists to return.
The government had enough money for 6 months, he said. After that, people were asking him, what would they do?
The government didn’t know how long it would take to recover, or how long it would take for these policies to take effect, he said.
Government would speak with traditional leaders and other groups about what they could do to help, especially after the six months when the public funds dry up.
There were a lot of businesses that would close, he said, but some would stay open, some jobs would remain. Infrastructure projects, both government and private, were still taking place.
And 35 per cent of businesses – those outside the tourism sector – were not so directly affected. They could still pay taxes to help pay the country’s bills into 2021.
There had been calls to trim the costs and payroll of the public sector, but the government would not do that, he said.
Cutting public services would be like cutting the country’s lifeline, and public servants would have less income to invest in their communities, especially in the Pa Enua where many families had only one breadwinner.
- Erita Aitau/Jonathan Milne