Australian budget surplus threatened by bushfires: Treasurer

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-21 09:59:00|Editor: xuxin
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CANBERRA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Treasurer has warned that the government's promised budget surplus could be jeopardized by the bushfire crisis.

Josh Frydenberg has previously promised to deliver a budget surplus of 5 billion Australian dollars (3.4 billion U.S. dollars) in financial year 2019-20, the first surplus since 2007-08.

However, he conceded that the surplus could be diminished by the "uncertain" economic impacts of bushfire that have affected Australia's states and territories.

"The budget is back in balance for the first time in 11 years," he said.

"What the Australian people know is that when you are responsible for economic managers you have the financial flexibility to respond to crises and economic shocks whenever they may occur. This is one."

The government has announced 500 million Australian dollars (343.8 million U.S. dollars) in funding for bushfire relief efforts this financial year.

Frydenberg said that while that figure would not be enough to threaten the surplus, the impact on tourism and the housing market could have far-reaching implications.

The Australian Tourism Export Council earlier in January warned that the fires could cost the industry 4.5 billion Australian dollars (3.1 billion U.S. dollars) in calendar year 2020 alone, with international tourists already canceling their plans to visit Australia.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has said that the government can be excused for failing to deliver a surplus because of the extraordinary circumstances.

"Let me make it very clear on the budget that we believe the budget in surplus is important because we believe it gives the nation the opportunity to respond to circumstances like these when they arise," BCA president Tim Reed told Nine Entertainment newspapers.

"And (while) we do believe that these are exceptional circumstances and why we would love to see the budget in surplus, we would not like to see it in surplus at the expense of these local communities."