My former Treasury colleague and old friend Joe Branigan, now at Cadence Economics and SMART Infrastructure Facility, was quick to tweet a State-of-Origin themed chart yesterday following the release of the NSW State Budget (see Joe’s chart below).
As noted in the budget papers, NSW is running “healthy surpluses” on its operating account, with a net operating balance forecast at an average of $2 billion over the budget forward estimates. Due to its privatisation program and healthy stamp duty receipts from a booming property market (which the NSW Treasury now expects to cool), NSW has been able to fund a massive infrastructure program, with (net) infrastructure investment per capita nearly three times higher in NSW than in Queensland, according to Joe’s calculations. NSW has been able to do this while keeping per capita debt figures under control and well below Queensland’s. (Note that, as a result of its large infrastructure program, NSW’s recorded fiscal deficits will be larger than Queensland’s over the forward estimates.)
In Queensland, with a State Government that is ideologically opposed to privatisation, and an Opposition that has given in to the public aversion to asset sales and has now ruled them out, there is little prospect of Queensland matching NSW’s record on infrastructure any time soon.