CANBERRA, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Treasurer has declared that the country's economy is "roaring back to life" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday evening handed down the federal budget for financial year 2021-22, announcing tens of billions of dollars in new spending to create jobs and fast-track Australia's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ahead of any major advanced economy, Australia has seen employment go above its pre-pandemic levels," he said.
Australia's budget deficit will reach 161 billion Australian dollars (126.4 billion U.S. dollars) at the end of the current financial year -- down from the 213.7 billion Australian dollars (167.7 billion U.S. dollars) projected by the government in October -- before falling to 57 billion Australian dollars (44.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2024-25.
Net debt is expected to peak at 980.6 billion Australian dollars (769.5 billion U.S. dollars) or 40.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in June 2025.
Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously announced the budget would prioritize driving unemployment below 5 percent over budget repair.
As of March Australia's official unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
The significant improvement in the projected deficit allowed the government to announce more spending than previously expected.
The centerpiece of the budget is 17.7 billion Australian dollars (13.8 billion U.S. dollars) for the aged care sector after the landmark Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety unearthed years of neglect and abuse.
"We will strengthen the regulatory regime to monitor and enforce standards of care," Frydenberg said. "We will upgrade essential aged care infrastructure in regional and remote areas."
A further 13.2 billion Australian dollars (10.3 billion U.S. dollars) will be poured into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) over four years and 2.3 billion Australian dollars (1.8 billion U.S. dollars) will be spent on mental health and suicide prevention. The government will invest 1.7 billion Australian dollars (1.3 billion U.S. dollars) in childcare and 1.1 billion Australian dollars (862.6 million U.S. dollars) in women's safety measures.
The budget includes an extra 1.9 billion Australian dollars (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) for Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.