Explanatory Memorandum(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP)
Economic Response to the Coronavirus
The Government is acting decisively in the national interest to support households and businesses and address the significant economic consequences of the Coronavirus.
While the full economic effects from the virus remain uncertain, the outlook has deteriorated since the Government's initial Economic Response announced on 12 March 2020.
The spread of the virus worldwide has broadened and is expected to be more prolonged. Governments, both international and domestic, have announced stricter mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus, which are having significant economic impacts.
On 22 March 2020 we announced a second set of economic responses which, combined with our previous actions, total $189 billion across the forward estimates, representing 9.7 per cent of annual GDP.
These actions provide timely support to affected workers, businesses and the broader community.
How the Coronavirus will affect the global and Australian economies
The outbreak of the virus has expanded and is a rapidly evolving challenge with significant health impacts. While the outbreak originated in China, significant outbreaks have occurred in Italy and Iran, as well as elsewhere in Europe and the United States of America. There are more than 170 countries reporting infections.
Our health system is well prepared to manage this outbreak. We have a world class health system which has pandemic plans that are currently activated. The Government has put in place strong measures to protect Australians, including activating the National Incident Room, releasing masks from the National Medical Stockpile, enhancing border controls and imposing strict travel restrictions, and promoting social distancing to limit the spread. The Government will continue to respond as the situation develops.
The Government's commitment on 12 March of an additional $2.4 billion to manage the outbreak in Australia, will strengthen our health system to manage the Coronavirus in the community and protect vulnerable Australians. In addition, the Australian Government has agreed with the States and the Territories to share the public health costs incurred by the States in treating the Coronavirus.
In relation to aged care, temporary measures will be introduced to support the aged care sector with an additional $444.6 million. This includes funding for a retention bonus to ensure the continuity of the workforce in both residential and home care as well as funding to support the viability of residential aged care facilities. This is in addition to more than $100 million that the Government previously announced to support the aged care workforce.
The Coronavirus outbreak not only affects people's health. The virus, along with the increasing health policy measures to slow its spread, will have significant economic implications.
The international economic outlook has worsened as the Coronavirus has spread.
While the initial economic impact of the outbreak was most significantly felt in the Chinese economy, this has quickly evolved to other countries and regions. Major economies including Italy and Spain have announced they are in "lockdown" to contain the Coronavirus, which is expected to hinder economic activity over coming months.
In China, a range of economic indicators are showing that the Chinese economy has been severely impacted. A survey measure of activity in the manufacturing sector had its largest fall in its history in February. China also had record falls for industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment over January and February. Trade for this period was also significantly affected.
Given China's interconnectedness with the world, and its key role in supply chains, this decline will have flow-on economic impacts for the world. But concerns about flow-on effects have been magnified as more countries take direct action to slow the Coronavirus spread. In particular, across the world we have seen a substantial increase in the breadth and severity of restrictions on the movement of people. And this is showing up in confidence indicators in Europe, the United States and Asia.
The global nature of the shock is evident in financial markets. Stock markets have fallen substantially around the world in recent weeks, while corporate bond spreads have widened. The Australian dollar is 13 per cent lower on a trade weighted basis than it was in early January.
While markets initially incorporated sharp downward revisions to the economic outlook in an orderly way with few signs of dislocation, more recently we have seen significant financial market strains. Financial authorities around the world have responded with a range of measures to support market functioning and economic activity.
Oil prices have continued to fall, and are now around 60 per cent lower than prices in early January, reflecting falling global demand and the collapse of an agreement between major producers to reduce output. While oil linked liquefied natural gas export prices will be negatively affected by these falls, consumers will benefit from lower petrol and gas prices.
In contrast, prices of key bulk commodities have remained resilient to date. This is likely due to an expectation that the Chinese authorities will move to boost domestic demand through ongoing measures, including increased investment in infrastructure.
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, fiscal authorities in numerous countries have announced measures to support their health systems and their economies. Governments are supporting the sectors and workers most affected by the outbreak, and we are continuing to see the announcement of policies to help households and businesses cope as unprecedented shut downs occur. Such policies have included loan arrangements, tax deferrals and relief, cash payments and income support. Monetary policy is also responding with more than 54 central banks across the world easing policy in 2020 so far.
Australia's position heading into this crisis is stronger than many, with both the IMF and the OECD having forecast Australia to grow faster than comparable economies, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany and France.
Australian governments continue to act quickly and decisively to adjust our health measures to the scale of the threat. This scaling up of measures to protect the health of our community will have negative effects on the economy. Demand for goods and services will be lowered, and this will be concentrated in some industries such as tourism, hospitality and retail trade. Some businesses will be unable to operate in the usual way owing to restrictions on large gatherings, or may face labour or supply chain challenges.
There remains considerable uncertainty around the economic implications of the Coronavirus for the June quarter and beyond, but the economic shock will be significant. There are a wide range of potential paths for the spread and containment of the virus globally and in Australia. In addition, there is uncertainty around the impact on confidence, people's ability to work and business cash flow. The global spread of the Coronavirus and its global economic impact will also flow through to demand for Australia's exports and the availability of inputs into domestic production and imported consumption goods.
There are automatic mechanisms that will help to support activity. The flexible exchange rate helps to mitigate the effect of shocks to global demand, we have a sound and well capitalised banking sector and our labour market has shown that it can flexibly respond - with firms adjusting more through hours, than the number of employees.
How the Government is responding
The Government's consolidated package of $189 billion represents fiscal and balance sheet support across the forward estimates of 9.7 per cent of annual GDP. The support is designed to help businesses and households through the period ahead. This significant action has been taken in the national interest and has been updated in the light of the broader and more prolonged impact of the Coronavirus outbreak.
The package provides timely support to workers, households and businesses through a difficult time. Building on the previous measures, this package will support those most severely affected. It is also designed to position the Australian economy to recover strongly once the health challenge has been overcome.
The IMF and OECD have indicated that Australia is one of the advanced economies in the best positions to provide fiscal support without endangering debt sustainability.
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