AUSTRALIA DAY is all about celebrating our culture, our lifestyle and our heritage. But we should also add our performance as an investment haven to the list of factors to celebrate and admire.
Even taking off our rose coloured glasses, Australia has been one of the best investments in the world … and the numbers prove it.
Australia has now chalked up 23 years of uninterrupted economic growth at an average annual rate of 3.3 per cent, an incredible accomplishment. We have a generation of young Australians who have never suffered an economic recession and the financial hardship that brings.
According to Austrade, in the last decade alone we’ve doubled the value of our total economic production to $1.5 trillion, which accounts for 1.9 per cent of the global economy even though we only make up 0.3 per cent of global population. So we are punching well above our weight.
The result of this consistent, long-term economic growth has been a significant improvement in our combined wealth and standard of living.
According to last years Global Wealth Report from Swiss Bank Credit Suisse, The average Australian adult is the richest in the world.
The median Australian adult was worth more than $US225,000 well ahead of the Belgians at number 2 on $US173,000 followed by the Italians, French and British, all at around $US110,000.
Only 6 per cent of Australians have wealth below $US10,000, compared with 29 per cent in the United States and 70 per cent for the world as a whole.
Here’s why we have never had so good, and our thoughts on whether good times can keep on rolling.
What’s the reason for our success?
Put simply it’s mining and being beautifully positioned on the fringe of the economic powerhouse of this century.
Our country is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and over the last decade the Asian economic expansion has fuelled an unprecedented level of demand for this bounty.
That’s been a massive tonic for jobs, government revenues, foreign investment, and has also been key to Australia building strong regional ties across this increasingly important region.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Asia will contribute 42 per cent of global output by 2019, double its contribution to the world in 1980, so our position in this growth market will continue to play an important role.
On top of this, we have benefited from a stable geopolitical environment and generally reasonable economic policymaking, too. Yes, in the overall scheme of things our Federal Treasurers (from both sides of politics) have done a pretty good job.
One of the biggest risks to our growth in recent times was the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2010, which almost brought the rest world to its economic knees.
But the strength of the mining boom left us in a good position to ride out the storm, with relatively high interest rates and a strong Federal budget giving policy makers a range of monetary and fiscal options to stimulate and protect the economy.
How do we compare with the rest of the world?
We all whinge a lot but, frankly, the rest of the world looks on our economy in awe.
Austrade and IMF figures show that in the last 23 years, Australia is the only developed nation in the world to have avoided recording an annual recession. The only country in the world.
By comparison Japan has had five recessions in the same period, Germany has had three and America two.
And when you look at developing countries, which typically grow at much faster rates than their developed counterparts, only China, India and Vietnam can boast the same run of consistent growth in that time.
Needless to say, we stack up exceptionally well.
Can it last?
After an innings like this you might be wondering to yourself whether Australia’s time in the sun can last.
Whichever way you look at it, the mining boom has been a key contributor to our growth story over the last decade, and while you only have to pick up a newspaper to see how quickly commodity prices are falling, it’s not the whole story.
Mining has made a significant contribution to growth, but it’s our services sector that actually makes up the bulk of Australia’s economy.
The key to our ongoing success is how well we transition away from our reliance on the crutch of mining demand into other areas. This will mean improving our productivity, and making strong investment in areas like technology, education and healthcare.
The IMF expects Australia to grow at a moderate rate of 2.9 per cent in 2015, which means that we should soon post our 24th year of gains.
And providing we can further strengthen our ties with Asia and export Australian services to their growing middle class, we believe our economic miracle can continue into a 25th year too.
On a personal wealth building level, compulsory superannuation has been the unsung hero of Australians. One of the key commandments of successful investing has always been to invest a consistent amount on a regular basis.
Our compulsory superannuation scheme does exactly that. Most working Australian’s now have 9.5 per cent of their annual salary directed to retirement savings which has an enormous impact of building personal wealth.
This massive pool of retirement savings has the ripple effect of providing a valuable source of funding for infrastructure and business investment which continues to grow the economy.