New Zealand's Ardern, ministers take 20% pay cut for six months due to coronavirus impact

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, ministers in her government and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months amid the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand’s offices, schools and non-essential services have been closed for the last three weeks, and economic activity is at a standstill as the country undertakes one of the strictest lockdowns globally.

The government has forecast joblessness to surge because of the global and domestic slowdown.

“This is where we can take action and that is why we have,” Ardern said in a news conference announcing the decision.

“We acknowledge New Zealanders who are reliant on wage subsides, taking a pay cut, and losing their jobs as a result of the global pandemic,” she added.

New Zealand on Wednesday recorded 20 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 1,386. It has recorded nine deaths so far.

The government is expected to decide next week whether it will extend its current “Level 4” shutdown.

In a speech to New Zealand’s business community earlier in the day, the finance minister said that if the government decided to ease restrictions, the emphasis would be to permit economic activity that is safe.

Grant Robertson also said the annual budget, to be announced on May 14, would focus on recovery.

“It will include funding for the cost pressures that are necessary part of keeping our country ticking over. But we will devote much of our resources to kickstarting this recovery,” Robertson said in his speech streamed to business leaders.

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