The whole world is facing a pandemic recession – so what are the off-beat measures some governments are taking to stimulate their economies? 

It has cost British taxpayers more than a billion dollars, it was used tens of millions of times and now New Zealand restaurants and cafes are crying out for it.

It’s the UK’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme that ends today, where diners get up to 50 percent off their meals and the taxpayer picks up the other half.

“I remember hearing it and thinking ‘that can’t be right’ … because that’s … really? We’re all going to get half price when we go out?” says Joanna MacKenzie, a journalist living in Cambridge, England.

So popular was the month-long scheme that some restaurants and cafes are extending it to September and footing the bill themselves.

With governments around the world pouring billions into economic stimulus packages, The Detail today looks at some of the more creative rescue deals, including Britain’s plan to revive its hospitality sector.

In New Zealand, the Restaurant Association has launched a petition calling for subsidies of up to $20 per person for meals served at restaurants, cafes and bars, which would cost the Government $27 million.

Last week it delivered a 4000-signature petition to Parliament, calling for MPs to consider adopting its own Dine Out Help Out plan, giving more targeted support to the industry.

The Government is not making any commitment to adopting it, saying it is focused on the wage subsidy.

MacKenzie, a former journalist at RNZ, says some eateries pulled out of the UK scheme because they couldn’t cope with the queues of customers.

Three weeks into the scheme the discount was used 64 million times, about the same as the country’s population.

But MacKenzie tells The Detail there were a couple of odd contradictions and it didn’t stop one big sandwich chain from laying off staff.

Also today Australian economist Stephen Koukoulas explains how a coronavirus subsidy for home renovations works and how some people used withdrawals from their superannuation scheme to fund their gambling habits.

“The Government’s unveiled a range of smaller ticket items – you’ve got to remember that a billion here or a billion there, it’s a lot of money of course, but that’s only around about 0.1 percent of Australian annual GDP so each billion dollars in itself probably isn’t going to be the rescuing item for the economy …. but you add them all up you’re probably going to get a decent contribution to the economy.”

And The Detail hears about how one tiny US town dusted off an historic money printing machine in its museum to boost local spending.

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

Sharon Brettkelly is co-host of The Detail podcast.

Leave a comment