Sydney, Australia, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced the formation of her new cabinet with a focus on the economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ardern said in a press conference that continuing her health response to the Covid-19 crisis would also be among the priorities of her government.
“The next three years will be very challenging for New Zealand. With the global outlook worsening we won’t be immune to the ongoing impact Covid is having around the world,” the 40-year-old leader said.
Ardern led the Labour Party to a landslide win in the Oct.17 elections, achieving an absolute majority and securing her a second term.
She has formed a coalition government with a traditional ally Green Party, which has 10 seats, despite her party winning 64 in the 120-member parliament.
Ardern said Grant Robertson would be the deputy prime minister and would holding the finance and infrastructure portfolios, which will be “central to (the) economic recovery.”
Her government will allocate some NZD$42 billion ($27.7 billion) to the infrastructure sector as part of its strategy to get out of the recession caused due to the virus outbreak.
“Our recovery plan includes $42 billion of infrastructure investment that will create jobs and ensure our economic recovery also delivers much needed improvements to our roads and public transport, to schools, hospitals and housing, while also continuing to support our regions,” Ardern said.
The leader, who has drawn international praise for her prompt and strict handling of the pandemic, has kept the country’s borders closed since March.
The number of confirmed cases in the country is just 50 despite a second wave during which the country’s most populous city, Auckland, which has 1.7 million inhabitants, was placed under a second lockdown to check the spread of the virus infection.
Ardern also formed the Covid-19 Response Ministry, which will be responsible for managing “all aspects of our ongoing response, including the running of managed isolation facilities, our border defenses as well as our health response, including our testing and contact tracing systems and managing any resurgence of the virus.”
The ministry will be headed by former health minister Chris Hipkins.
Andrew Little will be the new health minister and Nanaia Mahuta will become New Zealand’s first woman foreign minister.
As part of the power-sharing agreement with the Green Party, Marama Davidson will be the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence as well as the Associate Minister of Housing.
James Shaw will be Minister of Climate Change and Associate Minister for the Environment, with a focus on biodiversity.
“I am excited by this team. They bring experience from the ground, and from within politics. But they also represent renewal and reflect the New Zealand we live in today,” Ardern said.
“We know we have a big job ahead of us, but the skills, experience and commitment this team brings to the task is invaluable.” EFE-EPA