WELLINGTON (Reuters) \u2013 With promises of extra financing for small businesses and more jobs as a severe economic downturn looms, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday launched her party\u2019s campaign ahead of September general election. Ardern\u2019s rise to become New Zealand\u2019s most popular prime minister in a century, buoyed by her response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left the country largely unscathed, has boosted her prospects in the Sept. 19 election. Ardern\u2019s Labour Party, governing in a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First party, will face the National Party in what is expected to be a pandemic-dominated campaign. If the prime minister\u2019s high ratings are mirrored in the election results, Labour would govern on its own, without needing a coalition. The government\u2019s early and hard coronavirus curbs that paralysed economic activity have put the country in a technical recession for the first time in a decade. \u201cThere wasn\u2019t a playbook for COVID,\u201d Ardern said at the Labour Party congress. \u201cThere wasn\u2019t a playbook for the recovery.\u201d She said a loan scheme for small businesses, which allows for no interest loans if paid back within a year and which was to end this month, will be extended until the year-end, and more environmental and infrastructure jobs will be created under a previously announced plan. Small and medium-sized enterprises generate about a third of New Zealand\u2019s gross domestic product. \u201cI can\u2019t think of a time in our recent history when we have been collectively challenged by such a cruel combination of events \u2013 a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, a global pandemic and now its ensuing financial crisis,\u201d Ardern said. Her leadership, widely seen as compassionate and steely, after last year\u2019s killing of 51 Muslim worshippers in the country\u2019s worst mass shooting, and after the December eruption of a volcano that killed 21, has brought Ardern worldwide admiration.