Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan was named Euromoney magazine’s finance minister of the year for helping navigate the nation’s economy through the 2009 global downturn, receiving an award only former Prime Minister Paul Keating has matched among his countrymen.
“Australia has not only avoided falling into recession but has been the best performing of the world’s developed market economies,” the magazine said in a statement today. “The market has confirmed its positive view of Australia’s relative economic strength through rising investment and the steady appreciation of the Australian dollar.”
Australia’s currency has climbed almost 70 percent since Julia Gillard’s government announced its first crisis-response measures three years ago next month. Keating won the award in 1984 as treasurer in Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s Labor government, which floated the currency a year earlier.
“Putting in place the big reforms wasn’t easy in the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s clearly not easy now,” Swan said in a statement. “But it’s never been the Labor way to shy away from the tough reforms we need for future prosperity, and it won’t be under the Gillard government.”
Swan, 57, became Australia’s treasurer in December 2007 after serving as a Labor member of parliament from 1993 to 1996 and returning in 1998. In response to the global financial crisis in October 2008, his department for the first time in the country’s history guaranteed all bank deposits and the wholesale funding of its lenders.
Still, unemployment in August rose for a second straight month, reaching a 10-month high of 5.3 percent, which is lower than the U.S.’s 9.1 percent and joblessness in the euro area near 10 percent. The currency reached $1.1081 on July 27, the highest level since it was freely floated.
“We’re committed to market-based exchange rates,” Swan said in a Sept. 15 interview in Canberra when asked whether the government would consider intervening in foreign-exchange markets to curb the currency’s rise.
Driving Australia’s growth is demand from developing nations including China and India for iron ore, coal and natural gas. That’s left what government officials including Swan have characterized as a two-speed economy -- a boom in mining investment and struggling tourism, education and manufacturing industries.
“I would never want to see our economy become too excessively dependent on one country or one commodity,” Swan said in the interview. “So the government does have a broad- based approach to our economic growth.”
The “rock’ of Australia’s economic policy is fiscal stability, Swan said in the interview.
In May, Swan announced a budget with an underlying cash deficit that will narrow to A$22.6 billion ($23.1 billion) in the 12 months to June 30, less than half the A$49.4 billion gap last fiscal year. The government plans A$22.2 billion in savings over the next four years to deliver a A$3.5 billion surplus in 2012-13, an election year.
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