Visa holders included in $100 voucher plan
Adults living in NSW on temporary visas will be able to access $100 in food and entertainment vouchers delivered through the ServiceNSW app, the government has confirmed.
Any adult living in NSW will get the vouchers, but people without a driver's licence may find it more difficult to prove eligibility.
Details are still being finalised, but one option on the table would be for people without a licence to prove eligibility by providing a utility bill, rate notice, or proof of address.
The vouchers will be most easily claimed via a QR code on the ServiceNSW smartphone application.
In one possible scenario a participating venue would scan the voucher QR code on a customer's device to cut $25 from a food or entertainment bill (excluding prohibited spending like alcohol or gambling).
It's likely venues would then claim the value of vouchers back from the government.
People without smartphones or an online ServiceNSW account won't be left out.
A likely workaround for older customers without a smartphone could be to visit a ServiceNSW shopfront where physical vouchers could be printed.
The Berejiklian government's Budget revealed on Tuesday it expects the COVID-19 ban on foreigners to end by Christmas next year "in line with the assumed timing of a widely available vaccine."
The international border closure will "permanently lower" the capacity of the NSW economy by five per cent and reduce the state's population by the equivalent of Greater Newcastle.
But the fiscal blueprint also makes it plain the economic cost of having cut ourselves off to contain COVID will be long-lasting and severe.
The state's population is anticipated to be 376,000 lower in 2024 than it would have been without the coronavirus - a little more than 8.3 million rather than 8.7m. This is primarily due to reduced migration.
"The population effect alone means the economy is forecast to be more than five per cent smaller by the end of the projection period (2023-24) than was forecast at the 2019-20 half-yearly review," the budget papers say.
That cost? $34 billion.
"The population effect is a major reason why … the overall economy is not expected to fully recover to its pre-COVID-19 trajectory over the forward period" of economic estimates.
International education and tourism - the state's two largest service exports - have been dealt an enduring hammer-blow, according to the government.
"The future pipeline of students is shrinking," the papers say.
And "it may take several years for tourism exports to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels."
Any delay in the rollout of a vaccine and reopening of international borders "will result in an even larger negative impact," the papers say.
Tensions with China is another risk.
"China already has placed a travel warning on Australia," the papers say. "If this travel warning is still in place after the international borders open to Chinese students and tourists, there will likely be a noticeable impact on services exports and population growth."
The state economy is in no shape to endure even more difficulty.
It is currently forecast to shrink by three quarters of a percentage point this financial year after going backwards by one percentage point in 2019-20.
The government had previously anticipated growth of about two per cent in each of those years.
Unemployment, which was barely above four per cent in 2018-19, is now expected to reach 7.5 per cent by the end of the year.
While that means hundreds of thousands of people will have lost their job, it would be a much milder outcome than was feared in the early days of the pandemic when NSW Treasury told the government the jobless rate could hit 15 per cent.
The Reserve Bank of Australia earlier this month forecast the national unemployment rate would peak at a little below eight per cent.
The Federal Budget, released in October, estimated the jobless rate would still go beyond nine per cent.
The NSW government claims that without its efforts, unemployment would be as much as one percentage point higher this financial year.
The jobless rate is now projected to fall to 5.25 per cent by June 2024.
The budget is anticipated to remain in deficit until then too.
The government forecasts being $16 billion in the red in 2020-21. The shortfall next financial year is tipped at $6.8bn then $2.1bn in 2022-23.
Debt is forecast to explode by 440 per cent to more than $100bn in 2024 from less than $20bn now.
Total borrowings will rise to $158bn by 2024, up from $69bn in 2020.
The interest bill on those borrowings will reach $3.1bn by 2024 compared to $2.1bn now.
The smaller increase in interest costs compared to growth in debt is due to lower rates.
Expenditure over the four years to 2023-24 is set to be $21.3bn higher than previously envisaged. Revenue is tipped to $14.8bn lower.
Total tax revenues in 2019-20 were the lowest since 2014-15.
Transfer duty revenues are forecast to grow at 11 per cent a year and reap $36bn over the four years to 2024, making this the largest source of tax for the state, surpassing payroll tax.
The only tax revenues expected to grow faster are those from casinos and pokies in hotels.
Still, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is advancing his plans to "tackle an inefficient property tax system" through public consultation "on a possible transition away from the current transfer duty and land tax system.
"The outcome of this transition would be lower barriers to home ownership, and a boost to long-term growth," the budget papers say.
"The current tax system is not fit for a modern society," the budget papers say, noting that transfer duty on property was introduced in 1865.
"It impedes home ownership and makes it harder for people to move to where they want to live."
"The NSW Government is now seeking to progress the conversation beyond the theory by proposing a model for reform, where transfer duty and existing land tax could be replaced by a single property tax."
This could inject $11 billion into the NSW economy over four years, "providing much needed stimulus in the current downturn."
GST revenue over the four years to 2024 is expected to be $8.7 billion lower than previously forecast.
Originally published as Visa holders included in $100 voucher plan