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World Australia Lays Out Rescue Plan for Economy Stung by Covid-19

00:00  01 october  2020
00:00  01 october  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

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(Bloomberg) --

After slowing the coronavirus pandemic to just a trickle of new cases a day, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces his next challenge: shoring up an economy that’s plunged into its first recession in almost 30 years.

His conservative government on Tuesday will deliver its latest rescue plan, with a federal budget expected to include accelerated tax cuts and infrastructure spending to restore growth and tackle rising unemployment.

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Scott Morrison wearing a suit and tie: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Visits Adelaide © Photographer: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images AsiaPac Prime Minister Scott Morrison Visits Adelaide

Scott Morrison

Photographer: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

It’s a dramatic rewriting of Morrison’s economic narrative that less than 12 months ago was focused on returning the budget to surplus for the first time in more than a decade. Instead, the deficit is expected to blow out to A$198.5 billion ($141.8 billion) in the 12 months to June 30, 2021, according to Deloitte Access Economics.

chart: Goodbye Surplus © Bloomberg Goodbye Surplus

The budget strategy is about three things, Morrison told reporters this week. “It’s about cushioning the blow, it’s about recovering what was lost, and it’s about building for the future,” he said.

Australia has been buffeted by lockdowns and border closures, with the economy contracting by the most on record in the second quarter. Unemployment has climbed to 6.8% and is forecast by the central bank to reach 10% by year-end. The government has responded with stimulus packages worth A$314 billion.

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The government has unveiled the beginnings of a business rescue package which will include a wage subsidy scheme for those affected by the economic downturn

The Government has released the COVID - 19 Safety Plan checklist you must complete before doing so. Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the NT would push ahead with its plan to open up many Just fill it out , submit it and get back to business," he said. Mr Gunner said Government health officers

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Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

An initial recovery, helped by early success in containing the virus, was interrupted by a resurgence of community transmission in Victoria state and a renewed lockdown in Melbourne, the nation’s second-largest city. Victoria is now gradually starting to unwind restrictions after subduing the outbreak. The state reported just 13 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, and nationwide, new cases are averaging less than 20 a day.

The government has taken any talk of budget repair off the table potentially for years to come.

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As Australia buys itself crucial time in the fight against COVID - 19 , a cautious sense of optimism is starting to grow among those racing to get our hospitals ready.

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the long-term fiscal plan involves supporting the economy through tax measures and structural reforms and there won’t be a shift from providing stimulus to rebuilding fiscal buffers until the unemployment rate is “comfortably” under 6%. Deloitte Access Economics is forecasting the jobless rate will average about 8% in fiscal 2021-22 and still hover at 6.8% the following year.

Still, the government retains its conservative impulses. Morrison’s signature JobKeeper program of subsidizing employees to keep them in work is already being scaled back and is due to be scrapped by March. Despite pleas from welfare groups and the opposition Labor party to prolong such support for the jobless and underemployed, Morrison said this week that “the idea of maintaining many of those sorts of support in that environment, I think would be counter-intuitive.”

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A ‘postponed’ notice is displayed on a board advertising scheduled performers at a venue in Melbourne on Sept. 1.

Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

Andrew Hughes, an expert in political branding at the Australian National University in Canberra, said the coronavirus-induced recession had freed the government from the straightjacket of plegding to return the budget to surplus.

“The government may be relieved that the pandemic has given it an out to walk away from its core economic message of providing economic stability through cutting debt, a promise that restricted its ability to give sweeteners to voters,” said Hughes. “That could be liberating, but in the end Morrison knows he will be judged on whether he can steer the economy out of recession and keep voters in work.”

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