Infrastructure to steer NT out of economic downturn

Northern Territory goes into deficit to fund record infrastructure investment, as the financial crisis bites

By Brad Gardner

The Northern Territory will go into deficit to fund a record investment in infrastructure, as the global financial crisis slashes economic growth and government revenue.

Treasurer Delia Lawrie today handed down the Territory’s Budget, allocating $1.3 billion to infrastructure, of which $322 million will be spent on key road projects such as Tiger Brennan Drive.

The investment, combined with the worldwide economic downturn, ends a six-year run of surpluses at a time when the Territory’s economy is predicted to contract by 2.1 percent and growth in employment is expected to slow by 1 percent.

"During the period of economic downturn, infrastructure spending will increase to support jobs and maintain growth," Lawrie says.

"The operating surplus will not be sufficient to cover this higher level of capital spending and a temporary cash deficit will result."

But while she expects a $201 million deficit in the 2009-10 financial year due largely to a fall in GST revenue, Lawrie has pledged to drag the Budget out of the red within five years.

The multi-million dollar roads investment will bankroll improvements on the Stuart, Barkly and Victoria highways, Tanami Road and beef and mining routes throughout the Territory.

The Budget has set aside $89 million for the 7.5km extension to Tiger Brennan Drive, while also allocating $11 million to the Berrimah Road Rail Overpass project.

Lawrie says the $1.3 billion dollar infrastructure program is 47 percent higher than the previous financial year, while the funds to be investment in the road network have increased almost four times since 2001.

The Budget also allocates funds to jobs and training programs to help apprentices and boost trainee commencements.

The Government will also spend $500,000 establishing two regional job hubs in Nhulunbuy and Tennant Creek to support local employment.

Lawrie says the Budget’s "fundamental goal" is to protect jobs across all sectors of the Territory’s economy.

"There is no doubt this has been the toughest budget to frame in Territory history," Lawrie says.

"This is an unprecedented budget for unprecedented times."

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