Canberrans perusing the latest economic headlines could be forgiven for a little self-congratulatory back-patting. On Friday the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest household income and wealth report, which showed that ACT residents remain among the most affluent, on average, of any Australians.
For the first time national household wealth broke the $1 million barrier, and in Canberra it was even better than that. While just behind Sydney and Melbourne, once those cities' rampant property prices were removed from the mix, Canberrans had more money in the bank than anyone else, around $513,000 in financial assets, compared with the national average of $427,000.
While lower-income earners had seen little real growth in their wealth compared to rich Australians, Canberra remained one of the most equitable parts of the nation. And the good news keeps coming today, with the release of Deloitte's economic outlook painting a relatively healthy picture of the state of the local economy.
According to Deloitte's analysis, Canberra's is one of the strongest economies in the nation, buoyed by the second fastest growing population in the country and a strong influx of international and interstate students. But there are dark spots on the otherwise sunny horizon the ACT government would be keenly aware of.
While Canberra's skyline has been punctuated with cranes in recent years, Deloitte points to a cooling commercial property market and building approvals that have been headed downward since late 2018.
The report warns that the city has also fallen into a post-light rail slump, with the construction of the largest infrastructure project in recent history now largely over. Retail, education and recreation sectors have also pulled back, and federal threats to the local economy continue to loom - continued efforts to decentralise the public service, continuation of the much-hated efficiency dividend, and worries that any negative change to the federal economy will lead to more spending cuts.
Exactly how much [light rail stage 2] will cost and when it will get started is still as foggy as a Canberra winter morning
The difficulty for Canberra is that its economy has always been comparatively heavily dependent on the federal government - when the Commonwealth pulls back on spending, it adversely affects places heavily reliant on public sector jobs, like the nation's capital.
The few levers available to the ACT government mostly centre around spending on infrastructure, and the ACT government appears intent on pulling those levers with all its might. There are around $3.5 billion of projects underway or in the pipeline, among them the redevelopment of Canberra Hospital.
But stage two of light rail to Woden comes in for special mention.
As Deloitte notes, "exactly how much that will cost and when it will get started is still as foggy as a Canberra winter morning."
The ACT government is clearly eager to keep those wheels turning, with the hope that the so-called stage 2a will keep contractors busy until the thorny issues of the best way over the lake and through the parliamentary zone are resolved. Despite ongoing questions about cost and viability, the project now appears all but a certainty.
If that is the case, then like stage one, the second part of the city's rail network would provide a boost to the ACT's economy at a time when spending is predicted to be a shrinking share of national income.
A clear path through those difficulties would provide a welcome buffer against federal spending headwinds.