Political parties have been urged to address the burgeoning cost of doing business in WA in the lead-up to the March State election after confidence in the economy fell to its lowest point since the global financial crisis.
A Commonwealth Bank/WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey of business expectations shows 45 per cent of those questioned expect economic conditions to deteriorate this year, and only 13 per cent believe they will improve.
CCI economist John Nicolaou said political parties at both State and Federal levels had failed to present a vision to address the worsening pessimism in the business sector, which was at its lowest ebb since 2009.
He said confidence had suffered because of poor global economic conditions over the past year, at a time of rising business costs in WA.
The increasing cost of wages was the number one concern for business, according to the survey, followed by other labour market problems such as high turnover and staff availability and concerns about the domestic and global economies. Mr Nicolaou said parties should reveal how they planned to address these issues.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the State Government had to take some blame for the poor confidence because it had blown out State debt from $3.7 billion when Labor left office to $14.5 billion today.
Mr McGowan said Labor had revealed some of its vision with the release of seven business-oriented policies. Labor would also cut the cost of business partly by removing a 7 per cent surcharge on all electricity users.
Treasurer Troy Buswell said the survey results were surprising, claiming a 38 per cent rise in business investment in 2011-12 signalled growing confidence.
In the same period, the State economy grew 6.7 per cent, and WA had the strongest annual growth in retail spending in Australia, at close to 10 per cent.
He said record investment in training would help address labour market issues.
Premier Colin Barnett cited Sunday trading and a payroll tax rebate scheme as two of the initiatives the Government had introduced to support business, but businesses would have to wait to hear most of the coalition's vision to help them.
"We recognise there's more to do to assist business, particularly in reducing the burden of regulation and red tape," he said.
"We will announce our policies during the campaign."
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