Canberra Business Chamber has cautiously welcomed today’s ACT budget, which focuses on economic recovery. “The budget outlook is certainly better than we could have expected back in August last year” said Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt.
“We need to remember, however, that many ACT businesses were hard hit by COVID-19, and many jobs were lost. Now we’re in a recovery phase we need a focus on initiatives that support and foster the local businesses that provide more than 60% of Canberra’s jobs. That support, particularly as JobKeeper and other support is wound back, is the best way to protect and create jobs.”
For example, individual households are in line for benefits that would help micro and small businesses. “The introduction of zero-interest loans for private households to instal solar and buy zero-emission vehicles is a good move. But why not include small businesses, who generally don’t have the funds to do this without support.”
“We welcome the creation of a Better Regulation Taskforce, but to be effective it needs to deliver genuinely business friendly policies. Business would love to see real change, driven by the people who are affected by regulation – entrepreneurs and business owners – supported by government.”
The budget foreshadows expenditure of $100 million on the creation of the “Big Canberra Battery”, and spending on the Woden light rail project. While the Chamber welcomes these projects, it would like to see supporting policies to ensure that money will be spent with local businesses. “We would be missing an important opportunity if the government funds out-of-town businesses to do this work but does not mandate any local procurement component.”
And as government debt grows, with this year’s budget deficit at $603 million – equivalent to $1,400 per Canberran- the Chamber says this now is the time to develop a longer-term fiscal plan for the territory.
“The business community supports spending on economic stimulus, support, and investment that delivers economic dividends and jobs growth.” Mr Catt said. “As we move into a recovery phase, it is also important for business confidence that we see a detailed strategy to return the budget to balance and start repaying debt.
The Chamber also says that long-term thinking is needed about changes in key areas like skills, taxation and planning that will support economic growth and jobs creation.
“The ACT is competing globally with other states and territories and for business investment, particularly in the emerging industries that will be our future economic drivers. Clear plans to ensure we have the skills and population we need for the future, developed through engagement with industry, will be critical,” Mr Catt said.