6 November 2023

Northern Territory delivers first budget in operating surplus since 2015

| James Day
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The Darwin CBD and surrounding harbour on a sunny day.

“The achievement of an operating surplus in 2022-23 and improvements in other fiscal aggregates are evidence that our fiscal strategy is working,” Northern Territory Treasurer Eva Lawler said. Photo: File.

The Northern Territory Treasurer’s Annual Financial Report (TAFR) was handed down last week, unveiling an operational surplus of $146 million for the 2022-23 financial year.

The result is a $399 million improvement from forecasts set out in the 2022-23 Budget and the first time a surplus has been achieved since 2015-16.

According to the TAFR, improvements in the budget were mostly due to the government’s management of operational expenditure, along with support from increases in GST and own source revenue, which excludes grants from other levels of government.

Since December 2019, State Final Demand grew by 16.3 per cent, making the Northern Territory’s total value of goods and services sold to buyers higher than any other jurisdiction in Australia. The Territory was also third place nationally for Gross State Product (GSP), which in 2021-22 increased by 4.7 per cent.

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“Getting back to an operating surplus despite all the challenges of recent years is an excellent result,” NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said. “We will keep managing the economy and the Budget in the interests of all Territorians.

“That means creating more jobs, delivering the essential services Territorians rely on, and doing what we can to ease cost of living pressures.”

Expectations of the May 2022-23 Budget were exceeded by a considerable margin in the TAFR. There was a $656 million improvement in fiscal balance deficit reductions, and the Territory’s $8 billion Net Debt was lowered by $713 million more than the Budget’s original forecast.

Treasurer Eva Lawler said it’s a notable milestone for the government, which has been implementing “strict fiscal discipline measures” recommended by the budget repair plan since it was introduced four years ago in the Fiscal Strategy Panel’s final report.

“Our Government set an ambitious target to grow our economy to $40 billion by 2030. We are on track to achieve this target and the 2022-23 TAFR shows that Territory Labor is committed to growing the Territory in a fiscally sustainable manner to benefit all Territorians,” Ms Lawler said.

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For the next five years, Deloitte’s September 2023 Outlook expects the Territory to continue its record growth. Its anticipated average annual GSP improvement of 2.7 per cent is the strongest forecasted rate of all Australian jurisdictions.

“The Territory economy is growing, the Budget is in a strong position, and we are working every day to build the Territory’s future,” Chief Minister Fyles said.

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