Fast-tracking small infrastructure projects will be the focus of the third stage of the ACT's government coronavirus survival plan, which could be unveiled as soon as this month, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said.
The next tranche will mark a shift in the government response to the crisis, signaling the first steps on the path to economic recovery.
However, Mr Barr has warned the economic aftershocks from the pandemic, particularly in the tourism sector, would be felt for years.
He said a decade's worth of economic development had effectively been "wiped out" since the introduction of restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The ACT government has so far committed about $341 million to help the territory through the dual health and economic crises sparked by COVID-19.
While the first tranche included $20 million for minor "screwdriver-ready" projects, the majority of the spending has been aimed at boosting the territory's hospital capacity to cope with patients, as well as tax relief and concessions for struggling businesses and households.
Mr Barr said the next phase would include bringing forward funding for "local" infrastructure projects, which would help maintain activity in the local construction sector over the course of the next 12 months.
He said the projects were slated to be announced in June's territory budget, which has been delayed until later this year - possibly even early 2021 - because of the pandemic.
"There are certain industry sectors that are still operating and can operate safely but they are not at full capacity, so we see some opportunity to get some good local infrastructure done that would have been part of the budget anyway," he said.
Mr Barr stressed there would not be money for big projects, pointing out that current coronavirus restrictions meant it was impossible to bring in large interstate firms to complete work.
The ACT government has already put its long-held plans to deliver a new sports stadium and convention centre firmly on the back burner amid the pandemic.
"This is about our existing Canberra workforce and ensuring there is a pipeline of activity for them through the rest of 2020 and into 2021," he said.
"That confidence building is important; that they know that there will be a regular schedule of work."
Mr Barr said the projects could be announced in late April or at the start of May, with work ready to commence as soon as June. He said the government was consulting with the sector to determine what capacity there was to deliver certain projects.
Amid evidence that Australia is managing to curb the spread of COVID-19, Barr this week raised the prospect of a gradual rolling back of various restrictions, which might start with universities and schools.
But he said those changes were still a "fair way away".
Reflecting on the events of the past month, Mr Barr said he was still coming to terms with the scale of the financial devastation in the ACT's tourism sector, which he has helped build up to a $2.5 billion industry over the past 14 years.
Mr Barr said the international tourism market would take years to recover, and anticipated there will be strict quarantine rules in place for the foreseeable future.
"The idea that we will have international travel next year seems a bit fanciful at the moment, unless there is a vaccine," he said.
On Friday, Australian deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly indicated that international travel restrictions could remain in place after other restrictions were lifted.
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