Key Points:

The Prime Minister has summoned senior ministers to a Beehive summit on the state of the economy this week.

The move comes as the Government considers new plans to counter the expected worsening downturn and tries to stifle criticism that it is sitting on its hands.

The Thursday afternoon session will bring together John Key and five ministers with finance, infrastructure, economic development, commerce, state services and transport portfolio responsibilities.

It is being held the day after the Prime Minister returns from his holiday in Hawaii.

Mr Key yesterday said the economy was the "dominant issue" this year, and the high-level pow-wow is intended to show that his Government is not relying on its already-announced tax cuts and spending on infrastructure projects as its only means of stimulating the domestic economy.

The first Cabinet meeting of the year is still a week away, so Thursday's get-together is also intended to show the Government will maintain the fast-paced momentum it generated in its first weeks before the Christmas-New Year break.

A report in yesterday's Herald which noted that National's "100 days of action" amounted to only 72 days once four weeks of summer holiday before the first Cabinet meeting were taken into account struck a raw nerve in the Beehive.

Several Cabinet ministers pointedly made it known that they were already back at their desks and hard at work.

Thursday's meeting comes after criticism from Labour leader Phil Goff last week that the Government was halfway through its 100-day action plan, but had yet to outline an effective plan to deal with the deepening recession.

When the Herald spoke to the Prime Minister's office last week about the economic crisis and Mr Goff's remarks, no mention was made of a meeting on the economy being scheduled for this week.

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister yesterday said planning for Thursday's meeting had started before Mr Goff's attempt to unfavourably contrast new recession-combating moves by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown with National's response to the international downturn.

"It has got nothing to do with criticism from an Opposition that has been missing in action," the spokesman said. "They have been having a go at us when they are on holiday themselves."

Former prime minister Helen Clark who is now Labour's foreign affairs spokeswoman today said other governments had cut their Christmas breaks short so they could continue to focus on a response to the global crisis.

"What we are seeing reports of from around the world now are governments getting extremely busy with extra economic stimulus packages. So the level of inactivity in New Zealand is a little striking alongside that," she told Radio New Zealand.

"Everyone is entitled to take a holiday and people should take holidays, but of course when you are a new government and you've said you are going to have 100 days of action, then the 100 days of action is interrupted by many weeks of holidays it doesn't quite look like what was promised."

Helen Clark said European leaders appeared to be moving towards increased investment in climate change mitigation measures such as public transport in a bid to stimulate the economy, but provide a lasting benefit at the same time.

Mr Key yesterday said National was "on track" with its action plan, but the Government recognised that more needed to be done to address the challenges the country was facing.

The Treasury has made a series of increasingly grim forecasts, the most recent being last month's fiscal update estimating that 68,000 New Zealanders would lose their jobs in the next 15 months.

Ministers will be given further briefings, including an update on the international outlook.

"The Government's aims for the economy include putting more money in New Zealanders' pockets, better control of government spending and more productive use of public money, and building a stronger economy with more jobs by making businesses more productive and competitive," Mr Key said.

It is understood some minor announcements may be made after Thursday's meeting. But the meeting's main task will be to identify potential economic initiatives that can be developed into firm policy so they can start being implemented once the 100-day action plan has run its course.

An indication of the Government's urgency will be the attendance at the meeting of the chief executives of the Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the State Services Commission.

These departments are crucial in providing co-ordination and leadership in the public service so the Government can come up with effective policy measures quickly.

Mr Goff yesterday said were Labour still in Government, it would have presented a mini-Budget before Christmas focussed on "job saving and job creating" initiatives.

National's sole contribution before Parliament rose last month had been one piece of legislation focused on tax cuts which had been motivated by reasons other than stimulating the economy.

* NZ responds to the economic crisis

Last week: "In the absence of a bank collapsing or whatever, what would we do?"
- Prime Minister John Key's spokesman defends Cabinet ministers' long holiday break

Yesterday: "We recognise more will need to be done to help address the challenges New Zealand faces."
- Media release from the PM's office announcing the economic summit on the day a Herald story criticises the Government's lack of action