Tasmania’s budget is set to fall more than $1 billion into the red, as the island state’s premier pledges to spend his way to prosperity.
Liberal Premier and Treasurer Peter Gutwein will on Nov. 12 hand down the state’s 2020/21 budget, which has been delayed by six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was revealed in late October the state will have a deficit of $1.1 billion and an operating net debt of $1.8 billion.
“I’ve said early on in the piece that this wasn’t about bottom lines,” Gutwein said on Wednesday.
“It was about saving lives and we have done an outstanding job in Tasmania as an overall community.
“The most important thing that you can do to grow revenues is to grow your economy and to ensure that you’ve got confidence and investment flowing in.
“We’ll certainly be investing in the budget.”
The Mercury newspaper reports the spending will include $2.4 billion for roads over four years and $89 million for the next stage of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment.
Last financial year’s budget was originally tipped to deliver a $57 million surplus but that slid to a $338 million deficit in updated figures.
The state government in June launched a $3.1 billion infrastructure construction blitz to drive the economy and support an estimated 15,000 jobs.
The government has already made a host of budget announcements, including $46 million to reduce elective surgery waiting lists.
Some $22 million is being spent on boosting job opportunities for apprentices and trainees.
There will be $23 million to modernise HR systems in the health sector, while $9.3 million has been provided to bolster bushfire fuel reduction efforts.
Tasmania’s tourism industry, which contributes more than 10 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product, has been in dire straits during the pandemic.
The island state was closed to mainland Australia for about seven months due to the pandemic but has in recent weeks reopened to all jurisdictions bar Victoria.
Despite this, a recent CommSec report ranked Tasmania’s economy as the nation’s best performing for three successive quarters.
By Ethan James