There were, until earlier this month, some remarkable similarities between our republic and New Zealand. Tourism and agriculture are important parts of our islands’ economies, and the population sizes of both countries are a near match: 4.886m in New Zealand, and ours at 4.937m. The gap between the salary paid to the two heads of government was somewhat larger, with the Taoiseach receiving €185,350 against the €263,000 paid to New Zealand’s prime minister; that’s somewhat closer to our head of state’s “personal remuneration” of €249,000.
But these numbers have changed in recent weeks. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister announced that, in solidarity with people hit financially by the Covid-19 pandemic, she — along with 25 Cabinet ministers and 34 top civil servants — would be taking a 20% salary cut lasting six months. They’ve been joined voluntarily by the leader of the opposition party in New Zealand’s one-chamber parliament.
“If there was ever a time,” Ms Ardern said, "to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now … it is about showing solidarity in New Zealand’s time of need.”
The financial crisis is escalating here by the day. With Covid-19 set to rip a €30bn hole in our economy this year, it is incumbent on the government to work out how best to share the pain, so that those with the least don’t suffer more.