A pre-Budget poll shows the majority of Kiwis favour 'helicopter money' – direct cash payments to all – with many fearful or uncertain about their immediate futures.
The annual Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) poll released today [13 May] ahead of tomorrow's Budget indicates clear demand for 'helicopter money' to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with 54.6% of respondents supporting the measure, 23.6% saying 'no' and 21.8% unsure.
Asked if they believed they would be better off in six months' time, 40.2% of poll respondents said 'no'. Around a third (32%) said 'yes' and 27.8% were unsure.
In another question, 11.7% described COVID-19's impact on their personal finances as severe. Slightly more than half reported a moderate impact.
Not surprisingly, employment emerges as the top issue among Kiwis for the Government to deal with via the "rebuilding together" Budget.
"Our poll reveals the extent of personal financial pain Kiwis are dealing with in the wake of COVID-19, and their concerns about jobs," said Peter Vial, New Zealand Country Head for CA ANZ.
"There's a clear focus on the here and now with any concerns about how the COVID-19 bill will be paid for, and who wears the cost, bumped into the future."
He said the poll highlighted the political tightrope the Government had to walk. "More than half of those polled are in favour of helicopter payments, but a universal lolly scramble that could massively blow out Government debt is not what we need."
"People don't seem to be too worried about who will bear the ultimate cost. The Government has committed itself – rightly – to being responsible with Budget spending, even in the face of COVID-19 pressure to spend.
"The poll results also send a confusing message with strong support for paying for the recovery by reducing expenditure."
Vial said "debt is a better answer than cutting expenditure given our historically and comparatively low Government debt levels as we headed into the pandemic crisis."
"Cutting expenditure at times like this does not work as we saw in the 1990s. Increased spending is the answer, but delivered in a very targeted way – not by helicopter."
Only 2.7% of respondents indicated tomorrow's Budget should focus on Government debt as a top priority (roughly the same as last year's poll) while 26.1% of respondents indicated employment was their number one issue followed by healthcare (22.4%) and business support (10.5%).
Comparing the 2019 and 2020 CA ANZ polls, employment has been the big mover with only 4.5% of respondents rating it as a top issue last year.
Vial said it was good to see support for targeting of future Government assistance coming through in the poll. More than half of respondents backed targeted assistance.
"In tomorrow's Budget, the Government must start the move to a tighter and more evidence-based model, targeted carefully at areas of the economy which are still viable, but vulnerable," he said.
"The results must be measurable and the policy outcomes need to be sustainable and capable of being independently verified."
Q1. Thinking in terms of what is required to help New Zealand recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you think the 2020 Budget should be focused on? (Ranked first)
- Business support – 10.5%
- Education – 3.7%
- Employment – 26.1%
- Environment – 1.5%
- Government debt – 2.7%
- Healthcare – 22.4%
- Housing – 4.5%
- Infrastructure – 2.7%
- Inequality – 2.1%
- Innovation – 0.7%
- Poverty – 6.9%
- Productivity – 3.9%
- Superannuation – 1.3%
- Tax reform – 2.4%
- Wage support – 7.5%
- Other – 1.1%
Q2. How should the Government pay for its COVID-19 economic stimulus packages?
- Raise taxes – 10.9%
- Retain heightened debt level – 32.2%
- Reduce expenditure – 51.0%
- Not sure – 25.3%
Q3. All eligible New Zealand businesses were able to apply for the Government's COVID-19 wage subsidy. Looking ahead to how the Government should deliver future economic stimulus packages in response to COVID-19, do you think they should be available universally, like the wage subsidy, or targeted, for example by business size or industry?
- Targeted – 53.7%
- Not targeted – 23.7%
- Not sure – 22.6%
Q4. If future economic stimulus packages were to be targeted, how should they be targeted? By:
- Business size (for example, large, medium or small business) – 56.6%
- Sector (for example, tourism, retail, hospitality) – 58.9%
- Ownership (for example, private, publicly listed) – 27.5%
- Other – 6.8%
Q5. There have been suggestions of 'helicopter money' – direct cash payments to all New Zealanders – to help the economy recover. Do you support this:
- Yes – 54.6%
- No – 23.6%
- Unsure – 21.8%
Q6. Thinking of your own circumstances right now, how would you describe COVID-19's impact on your personal finances:
- Severe – 11.7%
- Moderate – 51.1%
- No impact – 31.4%
- Positive impact – 4.1%
Q7. Looking ahead, do you believe you will be better off in 6 months' time?
- Yes – 32%
- No – 40.2%
- Unsure – 27.8%
About the poll
- Conducted by Ipsos.
- Number of respondents – 772
- The poll was conducted on 4 and 5 May.
- Result are weighted to be nationally representative of NZ Census population figures.