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Some of the nation's biggest planned infrastructure projects should be re-appraised as analysts warn billions of dollars are being sunk into works that may not still be warranted in the wake of the COVID-19 recession.
Infrastructure experts say a sharp slowdown in population growth coupled with workplace changes started during coronavirus lockdowns may make some projects more worthy of consideration while making others less vital.
Analysts have called for major infrastructure projects to be re-appraised, saying the coronavirus' impact may have made some more viable and others less so.CREDIT: KATE GERAGHTY
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will use the October 6 delayed federal budget to unveil a suite of new infrastructure projects while the Reserve Bank has urged states and territories to spend up to $40 billion on their own public works.
But analysts say there has to be scrutiny of those projects to make sure they will provide long-term productivity improvements and are necessary.
The Grattan Institute's transport and cities program director, Marion Terrill, said two changes out of the coronavirus recession could affect the usage of planned infrastructure projects for years if not decades.
She said the sharp fall in expected population growth directly affected the business cases for many major projects that were predicated on many more residents in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
We know that these big road projects for instance were based upon big increases in population, but that's not going to happen," she said. "All of these big projects should be halted, with their business cases reviewed to make sure they stack up."
In its July economic and fiscal update, the federal government revealed it expected annual population growth to fall to 0.6 per cent this financial year. It would be the slowest growth rate since 1916-17 when many Australians were involved in World War I in Europe and the Middle East.
The forecast drop is due to a fall in the fertility rate and a collapse in net overseas migration which is expected to fall from 232,000 in 2018-19 to just 31,000 in 2020-21.
Australia's population growth is forecast to slow to its lowest rate since 1916-17, due to both falling migration and a drop in the fertility rate.CREDIT:
Even before the coronavirus recession, population growth was slowing. In the 12 months to December last year, the nation's population grew by almost 350,000. In the 12 months to December 2018, the population increased by almost 405,000.
Ms Terrill said another major issue was the large increase in people working from home.
Where about 5 per cent of Sydney and Melbourne residents worked from home before the virus, this had climbed to around 40 per cent.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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