The verdict

Good for businessGreen light on most fronts for Nahan’s budget

WA’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry says today’s State Budget is a pleasing win for the business sector and for all West Australians wanting a long-term vision for the future of the state.

CCI Director of Policy Dale Leggett said Treasurer Mike Nahan’s budget takes a fiscally responsible approach to spending and debt reduction, while also delivering a bigger-picture outlook for WA as the economy continues to transition.

The budget adopts a three-pronged plan for 2016-17 centred on broadening the economy, creating jobs and regaining the AAA credit rating – all items called for in CCI’s pre-budget submission. 

“We are pleased the State Government has heard the voice of business, which is after all the engine room that will drive future growth and jobs for WA,” Leggett says.

“While it was obviously vital the Government got spending under control and reduced overall debt, CCI has consistently stressed that the Government could not ignore the bigger picture – and that is the future of the State’s economy,” Mr Leggett said.

“New funding initiatives for tourism, agriculture, innovation, aquaculture and defence and shipbuilding will help businesses embrace new opportunities and create more jobs, and ultimately build a diverse and agile future for WA.

“The formal announcement to progress with the sale of Western Power is also big news for business – we have long been calling for the Government to put the asset into private hands to help regain the state’s AAA credit rating.”

Balancing the books

The State Government’s forecast deficit for 2016-17 has been revised to $3.9 billion, up from $2.9 billion in the Mid-Year Review. 

CCI had also called for the State Government to reduce expenditure growth, which has increased at an average of 7.9 per cent over the last decade, so it is welcome news that this growth is expected to average just 2.4 per cent over the next four years.

But Health Department spending remains a major concern, CCI says.

“Spending in the Health Department continues to be a challenge,” Leggett says.

“An extra $266 million will be spent on public hospital services in 2016-17 alone, with a projected $1.1 billion to be spent across the next four years.

“The state can’t afford that and major efficiencies and cost reductions could be achieved in this sector without compromising the health and wellbeing of WA residents.

“There simply needs to be a resolve to apply some private-sector thinking to this getting health spending under control.”