The government will open its wallet and spend up big - and it is hoping Canberrans will too, just as soon as restrictions ease and the city can consume again in droves.
The nation-leading vaccination rollout in the ACT has given the government confidence to project a strong economic recovery, mirroring what happened last year when Canberrans spent well just as soon as they were allowed.
Given Canberra finds itself in the midst of a global crisis - the kind that rolls around perhaps only once a lifetime - it is an appropriate time to be bold.
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The ACT will post the largest deficit in its history - $951.5 million - as part of these efforts, but the number of one-off initiatives this year will mean the deficit drops down quickly.
The government knows it cannot cut its way to glory. Strong public spending is the cornerstone of the budget, designed to create jobs and prop up businesses through the tail end of the pandemic. A strong economy means a good tax take, which will help pay for the spending. What goes around comes around.
It is, after all, a good time for the ACT to borrow money, with record-low interest rates. The recovery will need to be carefully managed in the future, but stimulus now will make that task an easier one.
The $5 billion pipeline of infrastructure spending, outlined in the budget, is weighted more heavily towards projects already under way. It's a smart move, because it means the money starts flowing into the economy sooner. Prioritising money for fresh ideas which still have a long way to go from drawing board to shovel would be slower.
But even Chief Minister Andrew Barr acknowledges spending that much money is an ambitious goal. Natural disaster - hail, bushfire or pandemic - could slow things down.
So, too, could a bursting of the housing market bubble. With low interest rates and pent-up demand, house prices have been pushed up throughout the pandemic. The median house price in Canberra is north of $1 million. A strong housing market goes toward helping the territory's bottom line, which is heavily reliant on land revenue.
The budget papers say the property market is "buoyant", and assumes upward pressure on prices and growth in investor demand will continue after the lockdown, too.
An unaffordable city with a strong economy is no use, either. The territory's economic future must carefully consider how to balance the need to diversify revenue, make dwellings affordable, and chart growth beyond the pandemic.
As Canberra skirted the worst effects of COVID-19 last year, the territory government acknowledged the role of luck in avoiding the virus. That kind of result was not just the product of good management.
Luck will again be required as the ACT charts its economic course, but at least the preparation looks generally sound.
MORE A.C.T. BUDGET:
- Everything you need to know about the 2021-22 ACT budget
- Hopes on consumers for economic recovery as ACT posts largest ever deficit
- The winners and losers in this year's ACT budget
- A time to spend boldly, but future needs balance
- $461m for core health services, including more mental health, ICU beds
- Gaps in business support a concern for retailers
- Canberrans slugged with rising debt levels in years to come
- Rubber hits the road on electric bus program as Monaro Hwy upgrade gathers pace
- Barr hopes AIS Arena could remain mass vaccine hub for booster shots
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