In 2018, Finance Minister Grant Robertson revealed his foundation Budget in what was supposed to be a trilogy of packages to introduce a new way of measuring New Zealand's success and transform the economy to face 21st Century challenges.
Budget 2018 - which included the mini-budget from Labour's 100-day plan unveiled in the half-year economic and fiscal update - was, Robertson said, about rebuilding public services and setting a platform for the future.
The second instalment was its "wellbeing measurements" in 2019, which added a series of indicators from the Treasury's living standards framework to sit alongside the Crown accounts.
He was less explicit about the final part in the trilogy of budgets but said Budget 2020 would "take us through the transformation process of the economy".
Instead, as we now know, Budget 2020 was totally swamped by the Covid crisis. The pandemic sucked up extraordinary sums: an initial $50 billion for the Covid-19 rescue fund, against the normal Budget allocation of a few billion dollars extra.
This is a jobs Budget.— NZ Minister of Finance (@NZFinMin) May 14, 2020
✔️ protecting jobs by extending the Wage Subsidy
✔️ creating jobs by building 8000 more state homes
✔️ creating thousands of new environmental jobs
✔️ training for jobs with free vocational training
✔️ and more (inc. school lunches for 200,000 more kids!)
It's clear Robertson still holds to his vision for a transformation but has so far opted for stability.
Speaking just prior to the election to interest.co.nz, Robertson said house price growth, and the wealth effect it creates, is not foundational to his "long-term" plan to sustainably grow the economy.
"We're in the middle of a one-in-100-year economic shock," he said. "Monetary policy has carried a portion of the load.
"The balance that we're talking about is making sure that on the fiscal side we do invest heavily, which I believe we are. But that we also make sure we've got enough money available for public services and a careful management of the economy."
Given the election result for Labour, Robertson could be forgiven for seizing the "opportunity of a crisis" to resurrect his transformative vision. But he will be well aware of the risk in crimping our economy further into debt.
Based on Budget projections, the Crown will borrow an extra $100 billion in the next three years to cover Covid-19 costs. A new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income above $180,000 might raise $550m a year, but it would take more than 180 years to pay off the new debt with this new revenue.
This election plank will impact on only an estimated 2 per cent of New Zealanders, with both Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowing no other additional taxes for the other 98 per cent.
The World Economic Forum has called for a "reset" of the global economy as part of the Covid recovery, with constraints on accumulated wealth, additional regulations and massive green "New Dealesque" government programmes.
Investing in nature can provide jobs and protect the planet.— World Economic Forum (@wef) October 19, 2020
📕 Read more on how businesses can take leadership towards a nature-positive economy: https://t.co/gg6dDBiwXa #NNER #NatureNow #NatureBasedSolutions #TheGreatReset #JobsReset pic.twitter.com/og3i2O3EVx
International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva has echoed the call, describing the process as an "inclusive recovery". "If there is one lesson from this crisis, it's that our society is only as strong as its weakest member. This should be our compass to a more resilient post-pandemic world."
With the first outright majority since MMP was introduced in 1996, Labour and Robertson have the mandate to lead some form of an inclusive reset, but will need to maintain a parsimonious eye on the nation's overdraft.