WA State Budget 2018: deficit, debt lower than predicted

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt. Picture: AAP
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt. Picture: AAP

WA’s expected deficit for 2017-18 has been halved from the $2.6 billion tipped in December to $1.3 billion, it was revealed in today’s State Budget.

The 2018-19 deficit is tipped to be $906 million, revised down from $915 million.

WA’s net debt is now expected to peak around $40.9 billion in June 2020, down from the $42.9 billion tipped late last year.

Treasurer Ben Wyatt handed down his second State Budget this afternoon and said the government’s “responsible financial management” of the State’s economy should see it return to a surplus of $1.3 billion by 2020-21.

“We are on track to return to an operating surplus in 2020‑21, the first surplus outcome since 2013‑14, and after the previous Liberal National Government racked up nearly $5 billion worth of deficits in their last three years in office,” Mr Wyatt said.

The Budget predicted expense growth of just 0.9 per cent in 2018‑19 – the lowest growth in recurrent expense in more than 20 years – and an average of 1.2 per cent per annum over the forward estimates period.

“The plan to keep expense growth low is paying dividends – it is absolutely critical to getting the State’s finances back on track,” Mr Wyatt said.

“By fighting for a fair share for Western Australia and constructively working with the Federal Government, we have allocated $1.2 billion in additional infrastructure funding over the Budget period.

“This is allowing for further investment in job‑creating projects.

“As we have always said, we are committed to reducing net debt gradually over time and will continue working to bring it down further.

“The $3.2 billion improvement in the State’s forecast net debt position underlines the progress we are making to turn the State’s finances around.”

After a contraction in 2016-17, growth in the WA economy is expected to rebound to 2.5 per cent in 2017-18 and 3.25 per cent in 2018-19.

Business confidence in Western Australia has rebounded, reaching its highest level in more than seven years in the March quarter of 2018.

Premier Mark McGowan said strong investment in job-creating infrastructure, with Metronet and road projects leading the way, was key to turning the State’s position around.

Among the job-creation moves announced on Thursday were $1.1 billion towards Metronet and an order of 246 Metronet railcars to be delivered over the next 10 years.

There was also $3.2 billion for road infrastructure and a plan to invest $425 million over five years towards marketing Perth as a destination for international and domestic tourists.

“Creating jobs for Western Australians is my number one priority,” Mr McGowan said.

“Since we came to office, around 30,000 Western Australians have found jobs. That is a positive start and we expect that number will continue to increase in coming months and years.

“Metronet will deliver thousands of new construction jobs, but the increased demand for new railcars will create a pipeline of work to boost our local manufacturing industry and maximise WA jobs.

“This Budget highlights our commitment to help continue the economic recovery, which will see business confidence grow and more jobs created.”

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: State allocates $420m to Yanchep Rail extension, stations announced for Yanchep, Eglinton and Alkimos

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: Peel Health Campus issues to be alleviated with $4.4m funding boost

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: health, roads and education sectors win big in Perth and western suburbs

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: road upgrades receive attention in Perth’s southern suburbs

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: more than $500m to be spent to extend Thornlie rail line to Cockburn

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: $1.8b allocated to projects in Perth’s eastern suburbs

MORE: WA State Budget 2018: big funding announcements for Kwinana Power Station, Kwinana Bulk Terminal and Peel Business Park