2019-20 budget will be 'problematic': here's why

Wed, 20 Feb 2019  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/2019-20-budget-will-problematic-heres-194957605.html 

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2019-20 budget will be 'problematic': here's why

Word has it that the framing of the budget, due to be handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg the day after April fools day (and around 6 weeks before the election), is more problematic than usual.

Problematic because there is some mixed news on the economy that will threaten the current forecast of a return to budget surplus in 2019-20.

Housing has gone into near free-fall, both in terms of prices and new dwelling approvals. This is bad news for GDP growth.  The unexpected severity of the housing slump is the key point that will see Treasury revise its forecasts for GDP growth, inflation and wages lower when the budget is handed down.

It will be impossible for Treasury to ignore the recent run of hard data, including the weakness in consumer spending and a generally downbeat tone in the recent economic news when it sets the economic parameters that will underpin its estimates of tax revenue and government spending and therefore whether the budget is in surplus or deficit.

By themselves, these changes are enough for an independently compiled set of forecasts for 2018-19 and 2019-20 to see the budget remain in deficit.

The Reserve Bank of Australia released a comprehensive set of up-to-date forecasts two weeks ago, in the quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy. These forecasts were surprisingly upbeat and optimistic compared with the recent run of news, but they were materially weaker than the latest Treasury forecasts from December 2018 which underpinned its estimate of a return budget surplus in 2019-20. The latest RBA forecasts for GDP growth are 0.25 per cent lower than those of Treasury in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. This does not sound like a big difference, but 0.25 per cent of GDP is around $5 billion a year, in current price terms. The weaker growth rate will undermine estimates of tax revenue if Treasury uses similar forecasts to the RBA’s.

Importantly, the RBA forecasts for inflation are a huge 0.75 per cent and 0.25 per cent lower, respectively, than the Treasury forecasts. Lower inflation means lower GST revenue, although there is a slight offset with lower indexation of some government payments. The RBA forecasts for wages growth in 2019-20 is 0.5 per cent lower than Treasury’s forecasts. This will mean lower income tax payments, slower spending growth and softness in other revenue for the government.

The only areas which may provide something of an offset to the generally weaker economic climate is a slightly stronger growth rate in employment as outlined by the RBA and unexpected increases in some commodity prices.

Deficit forecast likely for 2019-20

These events are helpful to estimates of revenue but are unlikely to be enough to stop Treasury from forecasting a deficit in 2019-20. There is simply too much bad news.  The rule-off date for the budget numbers will be around 26 March, a few days before the budget documents go to the printer.

Between now and then, there will be a flurry and new information on the economy which will impact the final Treasury budget forecasts. Data on wages, GDP, employment, retail spending, house prices, dwelling construction, business investment and news from the global economy could yet turn out to be positive, but more likely, the run of disappointing news will continue.

The government will be hoping that the run of data at least consolidates and doesn’t get any weaker.

If there is in fact a run of weak numbers, even the RBA forecasts will need to be revised lower and with that, will go hopes of a return to budget surplus in 2019-20.

This would be a huge blow to the government, already miles behind Labor in the opinion polls, especially as it is hoping to campaign on economic management as the election draws near.

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The misplaced objective of the government of delivering a surplus, come hell or high water, has gone up in smoke

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This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance web site at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/the-governments-test-in-2020-220310427.html   

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The misplaced objective of the government of delivering a surplus, come hell or high water, has gone up in smoke

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Life has changed forever.

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What's ahead for the Australian economy and markets in 2020

Thu, 02 Jan 2020

What's ahead for the Australian economy and markets in 2020

Happy New Year!

2020 will be a year where Australia’s annual GDP will exceed $2 trillion, our population will get very close to 26 million people and we will clock up 29 years with no recession.

It is also a year where the economy will be a dominant issue for policy makers, will drive what happens to interest rates, will help drive investment returns and will feed into the well-being of the Australian community. 

2020 kicks off with relatively good news in terms of economic growth, even though the labour market is likely to remain weak, with wages growth struggling to lift and inflation remaining below the RBA’s 2 to 3 per cent target. The Reserve Bank may have one more interest rate cut in its kit bag, but by year end, the market is likely to price in interest rate increases, albeit modestly.

The ASX, which had a great 2019 is set to be flatten out, in part driven by the change in the interest rate outlook, but it should get a boost from better news on housing and household spending.

In terms of the specifics, I have broken down the 2020 outlook into a range of categories and given a broad explanation on the issues underpinning the themes outlined.

GDP Growth

It’s a positive outlook. A pick-up in GDP growth from the current 1.7 per cent annual rate is unfolding, with the only real issue is the extent of the acceleration.