Thanks in part to the government’s sale of public assets, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has delivered a surplus of $4.5 billion in his first state Budget, along with a strong focus on regional investment.
“This budget realises the rewards of our poles and wires reforms and invests them back into our local communities, with record investments in social infrastructure,” Perrottet said.
“Our strong financial and economic management means we can meet the needs of today while building for the future.”
With Perrottet calling regional NSW the “beating heart of our state”, the Budget has allocated $1 billion for a Regional Growth: Economic Activation Fund, coming from the government’s infrastructure investment fund Restart NSW, which will look to revitalise regional town centres, improve connectivity through better communications and infrastructure, and improve tourism access and amenities for growing numbers of visitors.
Also committed is $200 million over three years for a Strong Country Communities Fund, to be put towards improving community facilities like swimming pools, health centres and community centres, and $100 million over four years for the Regional Cultural Fund, investing in new and existing arts and cultural facilities.
The government has allocated $46 million over four years for the Connecting Country Schools program, to ameliorate wireless access and internet capacity in around 900 regional schools.
John Barilaro, deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Development, said, “We’re creating jobs, boosting tourism, and supporting communities by building and fixing the things that matter most to them and wherever possible, that work will go to local tradies.”
Looking to business, the Budget has allocated $759 million over 2017-18 in skills development and training programs through TAFE NSW and other education providers, as well as $65 million over three years for the youth employment program within the ‘Smart, Skilled and Hired’ initiative.
A further $30.5 million will go towards business advisory services, reducing red tape, and driving innovation, including funding for more than 60 advisers through the government’s Business Connect program.
There are no flashy announcements for innovation or startup programs; rather, the Budget papers show the government underscoring its commitment to first updating its own processes to fuel change.
The papers report the government’s Finance, Services and Innovation ‘cluster’ will spend $3.4 billion across 2017-18; among the key funding initiatives are $178 million over two years to improve communications services used by frontline agency staff in the delivery of emergency, law enforcement, and essential community services, and $20 million to transition 24 motor registries across regional and rural NSW to Service NSW service centres.
A further $13 million will go to Service NSW to boost underlying digital capability and transaction on-boarding to expand the range and depth of its services, and $9.4 million for an online portal and red tape reduction to make it easier to start a small business.
Another $8.5 million in funding will be used for the development and rolling out of digital driver’s licences; as Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Perrottet last November launched the first release of digital licences, making them available for recreational fishers and people working within the hospitality industry.
Image: Dominic Perrottet. Source: South Coast Register.