Budget woes could use private capital, public good

A new generation of investors are seeking social outcomes not just profits, opening the way to a different type of Public-Private Partnership. Social benefit bonds could help governments get more from their budgets. NSW has begun this market, should the Commonwealth be next?

The handing down of the federal budget is nearly upon us and along with it, mounting anticipation around the policies and cuts to be announced as we navigate Australia’s budget deficit.

While the winners and the losers are yet to be revealed, one thing is certain. From the housing crisis to homelessness, from disadvantage in Aboriginal communities to youth unemployment, the social and environmental challenges we face as a nation far exceed the resources we have to address them.

Commonwealth spending has been projected to rise from $414 billion in 2014-15 to some $690 billion in nominal terms over the next 10 years. To give some sense of our increasing budget strain, over the decade to 2012–2013, Australian government spending grew by 45.2%, compared with GDP growth of 34.3%.

Australia is not alone in this challenge. Governments across the world face growing gaps between societal needs and the ability to fund solutions. Philanthropy plays a critical role, but simply cannot fill all the gaps. There’s little doubt we need to find different ways of meeting our needs and those of generations to come.

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