May 13, 2020 / 4:25 AM / 24 days ago

New Zealand's Ardern says budget to focus on creating jobs, stimulating economy

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference prior to the anniversary of the mosque attacks that took place the prior year in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Hunter

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday that the annual budget will invest to create more jobs and get the economy going, but warned the country was about to enter a “very tough winter”.

The government is seen unleashing billions of dollars of stimulus at its annual budget on Thursday to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

“New Zealand is about to enter a very tough winter,” Ardern said in her pre-budget speech.

Ardern said budget 2020 will look to accelerate employment, empower businesses, and stimulate the economy.

“Projections suggest our economic shock could be sharp, but hopefully short,” Ardern said.

But debt is under 20% of GDP and unemployment around 4%, and the government’s ability to borrow at very low interest rates places it in a strong position to cushion the economic fallout from the coronavirus, she said.

The coronavirus has infected 1,497 people in New Zealand and killed 21. Globally more than 4 million cases have been reported while over 289,000 people have died, a Reuters tally shows.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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