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New Zealand's new PM Chris Hipkins pledges to tackle inflation, cost of living

New Zealand new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins pledged to tackle inflation and the cost of living in a press conference following his first cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Photo by Ben McKay/EPA-EFE
New Zealand new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins pledged to tackle inflation and the cost of living in a press conference following his first cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Photo by Ben McKay/EPA-EFE

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Chris Hipkins took control of the New Zealand government on Wednesday as prime minister, promising action to lower skyrocketing inflation and other action to stabilize the economy of the island nation.

Hipkins was sworn in alongside his new deputy Carmel Sepuloni and held his first cabinet meeting Wednesday as he pledged his government would "reprioritize, refresh, and refocus" its work program and allocate resources to address the "bread-and-butter issues that New Zealanders are most concerned about."

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"The cost of living pressures that have been caused by the global economic situation. My firm focus is on leading New Zealanders and their families through that. You can expect more detail in the coming weeks after the new cabinet is in place," he said at a news conference.

Hipkins, credited as the author of the country's pandemic response plan, said despite New Zealand's inflation concerns, the country "stacks up pretty well" against what is happening in other countries.

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"Regardless of where we sit compared to the rest of the world, here in New Zealand household budgets are being stretched, and we do need to do as much as we possibly can to help with that," Hipkins said. "We've already taken active steps to address the underlying causes of high prices."

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He said his administration will work to make sure government does its part to bring down prices at supermarkets and gasoline prices.

"The Treasury is forecasting real government consumption will fall by about 8.2% over the next couple of years, which they say indicates that fiscal policy is supporting monetary policy and dampening inflationary pressures. But there's more to do, and the fight must and will continue."

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Hipkins takes over for Jacinda Ardern, who has won international acclaim for the way she handled a range of issues from COVID-19, terrorism and security.

Ardern resigned last week, saying she didn't have "enough left in the tank" to do the position of prime minister "justice" after six years in office.

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