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Jacinda Ardern promises to ‘focus on the economy’ after months of lackluster polls | New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said her government will scale back its political agenda to “focus on the economy”, after months of lackluster polls and increased pressure on the cost of living in New Zealand.

After a successful election in 2020, Ardern’s Labor party held a one-party majority in parliament this term, giving the government’s political program considerable freedom. With a difficult election year ahead, however, the Prime Minister has indicated that the government will reprioritize and cut spending, rather than pushing through all of its policy plans.

“We’ve been really focused on making sure, during this particularly tumultuous economic time that we’re in, that we’re downsizing and the economy is our priority,” Ardern said in a Monday morning interview with the national broadcaster. RNZ.

“As a government we’ve had a lot on the agenda… In 2023 we need to make sure that we’re fully focused, that we prioritize and that we’ll make sure that where we need to reduce, we we’ll do it.”

The government faces difficult headwinds as the next election approaches. The rising cost of living, the backlash from the country’s Covid response and concerns about crime have all contributed to a decline in popularity for the ruling party and its leader.

A poll from early December showed support for Labor had fallen to its lowest level since it came to power in 2017 and the party would not be able to form a government with its available coalition partners. Personal support for the prime minister had also fallen to an all-time low, with an approval rating of 29% compared to 23% for opposition leader Christopher Luxon.

One of the main factors for this decline has been the rise in the cost of living: headline inflation is 7.2%, food prices have increased by 8.3% year-on-year and unemployment rates interest rose dramatically after a series of Reserve Bank hikes.

While these economic challenges are not unique to New Zealand, they have contributed to embittered public opinion of the incumbent government and eroded the heavy reform mandate provided by the last election.

The opposition has accused the government of fueling inflation with the cost of the Covid response – and in recent interviews Ardern said it would cut spending in response to the changing economic landscape.

“Internationally, we are seeing slowing economies and many forecasts of recession in different parts of the world,” she said last week. “That’s why we will focus on making sure we reduce.”

The government also has a number of contentious items on its agenda for next year, including the controversial “three waters” reforms to change water governance, the world’s first efforts to regulate agricultural emissions, changes to hate speech laws and a merger of the two public broadcasters.

Ardern would not comment on the specific policies that the chopping block might face. She said that over the summer months cabinet members would be asked to reassess their legislative agenda, “and just [ask] ourselves, whether it’s from a spending perspective, from an investment perspective, or just from a focus perspective, those are things that we should be prioritizing at this point.


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