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In the space of a couple of months, the rhetoric on the economy has gone from strong to weak.
Curiously, both assessments are wrong.
The economy was actually weak during the first half of 2019 and, if the leading indicators are correct, late 2019 and 2020 should see a decent pick up in economic activity.
It is not clear what has caused this error of judgment and the about face from so many commentators and economists, including importantly the Reserve Bank. A level-headed, unbiased look at economic data confirms that in late 2018 and the first half of 2019, the economy was in trouble. There were three straight quarters of falling GDP per capita, house prices were diving at an alarming rate, there was a rise in unemployment, wages growth remained tepid and low inflation persisted.
These are not the dynamics of a “strong” economy.
Only now, in the rear view mirror look at the economy, are these poor indicators gaining favour, leading to generalised economic gloom.
Australia needs ‘fiscal stimulus', but what does that actually mean?
With the economy down in the dumps and the per capita recession now extending to nine months, there is a frenzied call for the government to implement some spending and tax policies to stem the bleeding.
The calls are coming from economists, journalists, the RBA Governor and a bevy of commentators who are demanding a fiscal policy boost from the government to support economic growth. This is all fine and there is a strong case for policy makers to work together to do something to lift the pace of economic expansion.
But there is a problem with the generic “fiscal policy stimulus” demand given that none of the calls have been accompanied by even vague details of what the stimulus means and the areas of spending that should be ramped up or what taxes should be changed.
Sure, there is a suggestion of more spending on ‘infrastructure’ but that is never defined or specified.