Count those blessings
In the ongoing global crisis, Australia's advantages really do make it the lucky country.
In the ongoing global crisis, Australia's advantages really do make it the lucky country. WE'RE not Greece, in case you were confused. I suppose our government's about as stable.But our collective fiscal funk has recently compelled Treasury supremo Martin Parkinson to point out this obvious geographical fact. So let's cut through the persistent gloom and doom and look at how our country stacks up.1. Government debt and deficitAs a proportion of gross domestic product, the IMF says we owe 24 per cent. The US has racked up 100 per cent, Italy 120 per cent and Greece 152 per cent.Yes we have a deficit - tiny by world standards. The IMF says it was minus 2.8 per cent in 2011 and the government has crossed its heart and hoped to (ahem) die that it will be a surplus by 2012-2013.France's comparable figure was minus 5.7 per cent, Spain's minus 8 per cent and the US's - tut tut - minus 9.5 per cent. Greece's is ratcheting up so fast it will be wrong before I type it: the 2012 forecast is 6.7 per cent.That country is now widely expected to default and Fitch's credit rating of "C" reflects it. Ours is "AAA".2. Resources and economyRemember we were the only Western nation that didn't go into recession during the global financial crisis. One of the reasons was mining.An embarrassment of riches from resources means we can feed the insatiable industrialisation of developing Asia. Indeed, the governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, told Friday's parliamentary economics committee the boom is "still building" and "will take the share of business investment in GDP to its highest level for 50 years".The mining tax - whatever you think of it - is designed to spread the proceeds.Meanwhile, most commentators believe the EU is back in recession and Greece never climbed out of it.3. Interest ratesHere they are relatively high on a world scale, precisely because our economy is strong and needs to be kept in check, but they're also far lower than they were in the 1980s.As a consolation to mortgage holders, the RBA has a loaded gun if it needs to shoot its way out of another crisis. And if you are cashed up, you are laughing all the way to the proverbial.4. Employment and wagesThis is what's really making us uneasy. And it is hard to ignore headlines about mass redundancies in industries struggling due to factors like the high Australian dollar - for example, manufacturing - as they scramble to stay viable. Others - think retail and media - are under pressure because they're at the pointy end of dramatic consumption shifts.But it's important to keep it in context. Unemployment last month actually fell slightly to 5.1 per cent, which boffins consider close to full employment. Although that is expected to tick up as global growth slows, some industries, like tourism and mining, are even reporting worker shortages.Perhaps it's our comparatively cushy existence in Australia that causes us to fixate instead on cost-of-living pressures, however it seems we should stop our whinging. CommSec research using The Sydney Morning Herald archives shows we have far more purchasing power for goods - wages relative to prices - than our parents and grandparents 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Housing is another story.Want a little more perspective? In Greece they're contending with unemployment of more than 20 per cent and a 22 per cent cut to the minimum wage.5. RetirementGod bless super. As controversial as its introduction was - and however inadequate it ends up being - it's a salvation for our sunset years. What's more, it's in our names and our control. Many Greeks are instead getting 12 per cent wiped off their pensions.So it seems Australians' confidence - which a global Nielsen survey of 56 markets has just found is the highest in the developed world - is justified.Follow this writer on twitter @NicolePedMcK
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