I was at University when the quake struck, eating my lunch and reading a paper on “Native Rights”. I didn’t hang about and immediately dived under the table as I didn’t like the look of the walls and ceiling lights flailing about like paper decorations. When the first shake had finished I headed outside quickly and sat down whilst the two big after shocks rocked the surrounding buildings. The University seemed reasonably unscathed……nothing like the CBD which is 5 kms to the East.
The damage of the Feb 22nd 6.3 shake is way worse than the Sep 4th 7.1 quake. No doubt this is due to the depth and the proximity of the epicenter. But this post is not about the earthquake, it’s about the economic impact and the re-building to come.
The cost of this disaster is only guessable at the moment. Numbers from $10 to 16bln have been thrown out but it could be anything. There is no doubt that this is a complete rebuild of the city’s infrastructure and central business district. Added to that is the viability of the eastern suburbs. They were affected badly and there will be questions over ground issues when it comes to re-building.
I want to go back to 1936 and the First Labour government which introduced low interest loans as part of a system of public finance to rebuild the country’s post-war economy. Think of it as New Zealand’s New Deal. The Reserve Bank governor can direct this at any time. This is certainly one possibility.
What I would like to see is fresh new money being injected directly into the economy by the government. The Treasury can action this at any time. The New Zealand economy has been struggling for a few years now since the GFC hit and deleveraging started. Business is struggling and cash is constantly tight. This latest quake will have finished off many business hanging by a thread.
I am proposing the Treasury create $5bln of new interest free money and credit it to the Government Earthquake Department for use in the rebuilding of public infrastructure. This is real money (not debt) and it will flow through into the economy thus giving it a boost as well as providing liquidity to the economy.
The money supply will increase by $5bln but I don’t believe there will be any inflationary risk. We are currently in a period of deflation and deleveraging with falling house prices and economic stagnation. NZ needs all the help it can get and there has never been a greater need nor a better time for this proposal.
It’s time for a New Deal. Please pass this on if you can.