Australia forecasts budget surplus

Australia’s government is preparing to reveal a spending plan today that will make it the first major economy to return to a budget surplus after the global financial crisis.

Treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan foreshadowed big spending cuts to achieve what he described as a “modest” surplus in the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

Media reports have predicted a 1.5 billion Australian dollar (€1.1bn) surplus target for the 1.4 trillion Australian economy.

The government had predicted a 22.6 billion-dollar deficit for the current fiscal year when the last budget was announced a year ago. That deficit rose to 37 billion dollars when economic projections were reviewed in November due to Australia’s slower-than-expected economic recovery.

Mr Swan said poorer Australians would be spared spending cuts while the wealthier would have to carry a greater tax burden.

The government has indicated that the defence budget will be trimmed.

Mr Swan said a surplus budget was important because of global economic uncertainty.

“Bringing the budget back to surplus, making sure our prosperity is fairly shared and looking after the most vulnerable are what this budget is really about,” he told reporters outside Parliament House in Canberra.

“It’s the fifth budget I’ve delivered but in some ways it’s being delivered in times of great uncertainty and it’s brought great challenges.”

Australia scraped through the global downturn without a recession thanks to Chinese industrial demand for Australian iron ore and other natural resources.

The central bank last week reduced the benchmark cash interest rate by half a percentage point to 3.75% due to the sluggish economy outside the booming resource sector.

Senator Christine Milne, leader of the Greens party which supports the minority Labour Party, warned that government spending cuts could result in recession in states that were not rich in minerals.

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