SYDNEY, Australia – Australia on Thursday, March 12, unveiled a massive US$11-billion spending plan designed to curb the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic and avert the country’s first recession in 29 years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the nearly Aus$18 billion package – equivalent to just under 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) – which will primarily be targeted at businesses.
“This plan is about keeping Australians in jobs. This plan is about keeping a business in business,” said Morrison. “This plan is about ensuring the Australian economy bounces back stronger on the other side of this.”
Much of the money is expected to be distributed by the end of June, the country’s treasurer said.
Australia has seen 136 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 3 deaths. (READ: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson test positive for coronavirus)
Morrison acknowledged the stimulus would mean he will not meet an election pledge to balance the country’s budget – a key plank of his conservative Liberal Party’s pitch to voters last year.
Australia’s economy had already been limping before the coronavirus hit – with raging bushfires and drought slowing growth to a stall.
The central bank has repeatedly cut rates to historic lows while warning that the coronavirus outbreak could have “large and long-lasting” effects.
Morrison had on Wednesday, March 11, announced a separate $1.6-billion war chest to bolster medical services that are likely to come under intense strain as the virus spreads in the coming months.
Morrison later made a televised address to the country, seeking to reassure a nation rattled by panic buying and an avalanche of information that Australia was “well prepared and are well equipped” to deal with the crisis.
“The months ahead will present many challenges, and we will respond to them,” he said.
“We’ll get through this together, Australia. We all have a role to play.” – Rappler.com