The Government will tell us on 20 April whether the Level 4 lockdown continues past 22 April. It needs to give clear guidance on what a Level 3 world looks like because business cannot prepare with two days' notice. But there is another problem. Many business accounts are paid on the 20th of the month. Finding out who’s still paying and how many debts are bad will be critical to business. Combining the Government’s announcement and the day of settlement on the same day is a Weapon of Mass Uncertainty.
Got A Better Idea?
At the very least, the Government should bring forward its Alert Level announcement by a couple of days so that employers know what they’re facing on payment day. But there are other reasons. In the practical world, demand has to be estimated, staff have to roster on, supplies have to be ordered in, before businesses can restart. Information is key to business decisions, and Government is the major determinant of it right now.
The Government talks about "the economy" when it should be talking about human action - workers, businesses and customers who have to make practical arrangements. If the Government takes this to heart, it will start releasing quality guidance about what Level 3 looks like this week so that, when the Alert Level changes, businesses can hit the ground running.
But Will The Alert Level Change?
On the face of it, yes. There have now been over 60,000 tests of New Zealanders. Only 2 per cent have been positive, and these are the people who show up thinking they are sick. In recent days, fewer than 1 in 100 tests have been positive. Meanwhile, the economic impact of the lockdown bites harder each week. Why wouldn’t it change?
It’s The Modelling, Stupid
Your world is dictated by mathematical models right now, particularly those coming out of the University of Auckland. This paper by Shaun Hendy’s group will probably determine your future. It forecasts that any scenario other than continued lockdown leads to an outbreak (see Table 4). It leads with a curious graph that rises, plateaus with the real data, then commences exponential growth. We can only hope that the Government approaches the models with due scepticism.
The Government's role is to put in place public health measures that battle the epidemic without damaging the economy. There is a paradox at play where the more it fails at its core role, the bigger its role becomes. Welfare rolls will swell and Shane Jones muses government will have to take over road building from broke private contractors. It’s critical that the public sector does not gain an advantage over the private sector as a result of the downturn.
MP Pay Petition
David Seymour has drafted a bill to be introduced and passed urgently when Parliament resumes. There cannot be public sector wage restraint without leadership from Parliament, so MP pay must be reduced too. If you’d like to support this measure, please sign the petition here.