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Small is good for SA economy, says report

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South Australia’s economy is in better shape than most analysts suggest, a new report says.

‘Growth without Growth’ by local urban research consultancy ipData, claims South Australia and Adelaide may be outperforming other states on a per capita basis when long-term indicators are considered on a per capita basis.

“Indeed, the state and city ‘punch well above their weight’ compared to their population size,” ipData’s Executive Director George Giannakodakis said today.

“The research indicates that over the past 10 years SA has been growing its Gross State Product (GSP) at a much faster rate than comparatively larger states; that its debt per capita is actually the lowest of any mainland state; that it invests a proportionally higher level of good debt into infrastructure than other states, which underpins productivity improvements, and that Adelaide has the most affordable inner and middle ring housing in the nation.”

Giannakodakis’s report uses a concept that describes the detachment between population and economic growth.

Coined a decade ago by urban economist Paul Gottlieb at the Brookings Institute, ‘Growth without Growth’ places cities into four categories: Wealth Builders, Conventional Wisdom, Population Magnets and Low Growth.

“When applying this economic approach to Australia, it becomes apparent that larger cities and their parent states such as Melbourne and Victoria are underperforming compared to their population growth rate, while states with a poor economic reputation are in fact creating more economic prosperity on a per capita basis,” the report claims.

“States with low population growth such as South Australia should therefore not despair over their low population growth rates, given what high growth has inflicted on other Australian cities with infrastructure shortfalls, traffic congestion and a lack of services in new areas.

“In cities in the US ‘population magnets’ such as Melbourne are more vulnerable to housing boom and busts.”

Giannakodakis, a civil engineer, says the traditional aim of becoming a “population magnet” is becoming outdated.

“We can see that a low growth rate is not necessarily a good thing either for building wealth given our ageing population.”

His report argues that South Australia and Tasmania had the lowest level of “net debt per capita” of any mainland state.

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