Western Australia is set to pour $26.9 billion into infrastructure projects over the next four years as the state beefs up spending on construction of major road and rail services.
But the budget has been attacked by both business groups and the state opposition, both of whom accuse the government of failing to tackle the state’s massive debt load.
Unveiling the 2013/14 budget, the state government said it would spend $26.9 billion in infrastructure over the four year forward estimates period – up from $26.4 billion over the forward estimates period last year.
Over the next twelve months, the government will spend $7.5 billion (slightly down from the $7.6 billion budget in 2012/13) on projects such as Elizabeth Quay, Perth Stadium, the new children’s hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital and transport.
Key project commitments (next four years) across all sectors include:
- $836 million on the Gateway WA project to upgrade roads around Perth Airport
- $432 million for the $1.9 billion MAX light rail service
- $174 million for the $2 billion airport rail link
- $325 million for the Perth to Darwin Highway
- $417 million toward the new children’s hospital
- Upgrading Elizabeth Quay to create a prime waterfront destination reconnecting the city to the Swan River
- A groundwater replenishment scheme ($111 million) to help drought-proof Perth.
- $270 million to deliver a new water treatment plant at Mundaring
- Four new schools primary schools in Perth’s southern corridor and Kimberly region ($56 million – 2013/14) and $78.2 million and $210 million (2013/14) for five primary schools and six secondary schools already under construction.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell says a growing population is driving infrastructure demand and the state’s investment program will boost its reputation as place to live, work and invest.
“While WA’s economy continued to lead the nation last financial year, making it a very attractive place to live, this rapid growth has placed unprecedented demand on our services and infrastructure” Buswell says.
“By 2020, the people of Western Australia will be able to take an easy train ride to the airport to start their family holiday, or hop on the MAX light rail system to quickly travel across town.”
But the budget has been slammed by business groups and the state opposition, both of whom charge the government with failing to tackle the state’s massive debt load.
The opposition says the state’s debt is set to blow out to more than $28 billion whilst Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia Inc. Chief Executive Officer James Pearson accuses the government of being ‘committed to a major infrastructure program funded by a shrinking surplus and increased reliance on debt’.
“At a time when businesses are focused on spending restraint to remain financially sustainable, the government could have done more to demonstrate the same discipline” Pearson says.