New Zealand budget plan offers modest financial relief ahead of election

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Months before an election, New Zealand’s government is offering some modest financial relief to many people by making most prescription medicines free and increasing subsidies for childcare and public transportation. But the government’s annual budget plan was notable for its lack of big new initiatives. Since taking office earlier this year, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has promised a back-to-basics approach and has axed many of the more ambitious plans of his predecessor, Jacinda Ardern. A new Treasury forecast released Thursday no longer predicts New Zealand will enter a recession as the economy cools. Still, the forecast does predict a sharp uptick in unemployment and anemic economic growth.