Stimulus to try and keep economies functioning normally is futile but New Zealand appears to be on the right track with its rescue plans, says Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens.
"There are two types of government measures you can take," he said. "You can go for rescue or you can go for stimulus."
The Australian Government seemed to be trying to keep the economy alive with stimulus.
"Frankly I think that is futile," he said. "We are in lockdown here, demand is going to be very low whatever happens."
The role of government for now was to ensure that people have the means to get by and we have the means to prevent firms from needlessly collapsing.
"We just want to allow people to get through this. We don't want to think we can keep the economy functioning through a lockdown."
There was no doubt the economic downturn would be extreme in the short term, Stephens said.
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Westpac sees a GDP fall in excess of 10 per cent in the second quarter, and more than 200,000 jobs being lost.
"It could mean an unemployment rate above 10 per cent," he said.
But Stephens said he was hopeful it might not get to that due to the Government wage programme and tendency of firms to hold on to workers more so than in a normal recession.
"Obviously when the lockdown is over economic activity wil resume and there will be some very, very large growth rates out the other side."
Meanwhile it was vital that government responses needed to be timely, targeted and temporary, he said.
"It needs to be timely enough to actually have an effect," he said. "It needs to be targeted so we are not wasting money."
Above all it needed to temporarily ensure debt levels could be managed and maintained.
NZ Government bond rates really rose last week and the Reserve Bank came to the rescue with its $30 billion bond buying plan.
"What we're still seeing is a reasonably high interest rate for longer-term debt," Stephens said.
"I think its imperative that the Government displays how it is going to get debt back under control once the virus disruption is past, to keep markets calm. If the Government can't do that, its own interest rate is going to rise and that will generate an unhelpful lift in interest rates around New Zealand."
For economists the lack of data was going to make it hard to get a fix on numbers for some time.
"The best measure we'll have of the damage done will be the Government's balance sheet," he said.
The last estimate Westpac had done was for a debt-to-GDP ratio rising from around 19 per cent to 30 per cent.
It now looked like it would have to go a lot higher than that, perhaps well above 50 per cent, he said.
"The Government is having to backstop us, that will be a measure of how much this costs."