Classifying COVID-19 policy interventions during 2019-20 in macroeconomic statistics

This article provides a summary of the conceptual classification of key government COVID-19 policies in place during 2019-20

Released
27/04/2021

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the fastest and largest fiscal response to an economic event in modern Australian history, with several hundred policy interventions announced across all levels of government. This article provides a summary of the conceptual classification of key COVID-19 policies that were in place during 2019-20.

The ABS undertook extensive consultation with stakeholders and subject matter experts to determine appropriate classifications. These classifications are based on well-established conceptual frameworks (a), which ensure consistent recording of these policies across macroeconomic statistics, particularly in relation to Government Finance Statistics (GFS) and the National Accounts (NA).

Classification of COVID-19 policies

The ABS classification of key COVID-19 policy interventions is summarised in Table 1 below (b).

The policies are grouped into five broad categories (c):

  • Increased healthcare and frontline services spending
  • Provision of assistance to households
  • Provision of assistance to corporations, unincorporated enterprises and non-profit institutions
  • Relaxation of tax and non-tax revenue obligations
  • Capital injections, establishment of new, or extended, lending facilities and provision of guarantees
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Table 1. Classification of COVID-19 policies across Commonwealth and State levels of government (a)(c)(e)
Types of COVID-19 policies (b)Examples of policiesClassification in GFS and NA (d)
Increased healthcare and frontline services spending
 Additional hospital fundingCommonwealth co-funding with states to cover additional hospital costs

GFS: Current grants

NA: Income accounts - Current transfers

 Additional spending on public sector workforce

Employing new medical staff to manage COVID-19 health response

Redeploying staff to manage quarantine and contact tracing

GFS: Employee expenses

NA: GDP (E) - Government final consumption expenditure, GDP (I) - Compensation of employees

 Additional spending on healthcare consumables, training, contractors and communication

Expenditure on personal protective equipment (PPE) including the National

Medical Stockpile

COVID-19 communication campaigns

Cleaning of publicly owned assets

GFS: Use of goods & services, Change in inventories

NA: GDP (E) - Government final consumption expenditure, Change in inventories

 New and accelerated infrastructure investment

Fast-tracked purchases of ambulances and medical equipment

Infrastructure investment as economic stimulus

GFS: Acquisition of new non-financial assets

NA: GPD (E) - Public gross fixed capital formation

Provision of assistance to households
 Cash payments to households

Economic Support Payments

JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement

Other hardship payments

GFS: Current monetary transfers to households

NA: Income accounts - Social assistance benefits

 Healthcare services provided to households

Expanded telehealth services for Medicare

Home Medicines Services for PBS

Provision of free COVID-19 pathology tests

GFS: Social benefits to households in goods and services

NA: GDP (E) - Government final consumption expenditure

 Other rebates and support for households

Free child care services

Additional aged care supplements

Rebates to households for electricity bills

Employment support services

GFS: Social benefits to households in goods and services

NA: GDP (E) - Government final consumption expenditure

 Access to superannuation savingsEarly release of superannuation

GFS: No GFS classification is applicable

NA: Financial account and Balance sheet - Net equity in pension funds

Provision of assistance to corporations, unincorporated enterprises and non-profit institutions
 Wage subsidies

JobKeeper

Wage subsidies for apprentices

Aged care staff retention bonus

GFS: Other subsidies on production

NA: GDP (I) - Other subsidies on production

 Cash support payments to eligible producers

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers

State based cash payments to businesses

GFS: Other subsidies on production

NA: GDP (I) - Other subsidies on production

 Other industry support

Australian Airline Financial Relief Package

Creative Economy Support Package

Electricity rebates for businesses

Other targeted industry subsidies

Various classifications depending on policy details

GFS: Other subsidies on production, Subsidies on products, Current transfer expenses nec

NA: GDP (I) - Total subsidies on production, GPD (P) - Subsidies on products, Income accounts - Other current transfers

Relaxation of tax and non-tax revenue obligations
 Refunds, waivers and deferrals for various taxes, licenses and fees

Key examples include GST, payroll and land tax

Other examples include liquor, gambling, fishing and stamp duty related policies

GFS: Sales of goods and services, Various taxes classifications

NA: GDP (E) - Government final consumption expenditure, GDP (I) - Total taxes on production, GDP (P) - Taxes on products

 Investment incentivesIncreases and expansions to instant asset write-off policies for businesses

GFS: Company tax

NA: Income accounts - Current taxes on income

Capital injections, establishment of new, or extended, lending facilities and provision of guarantees
 Loan guaranteesSME Guarantee Scheme

GFS: Contingent liabilities

NA: Not recognised

 Equity injectionsGovernment equity injections into public non-financial corporations

GFS: Equity including contributed capital

NA: Financial account and Balance sheet - Shares and other equity

 Access to low cost loans

RBA term funding facility for banks

Low-interest loans for local government

GFS: Advances: Concessional or other

NA: Financial account and Balance sheet - Loan and debt security markets (repurchase agreements)

 

Footnotes:
(a) These frameworks are supported by international standards such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014 (GFSM 2014) and the System of National Accounts 2008 (2008 SNA).
(b) The categories are broadly based on the recommendations in “COVID-19: How to Record Government Policy Interventions in Fiscal Statistics” (IMF, 2020)
(c) This table summarises key policies with an impact on the macroeconomic accounts and does not cover every specific COVID-19 government policy in Australia.
(d) NA includes the gross domestic product (GDP) accounts, which are measured using the expenditure approach (GDP (E)), the income approach (GDP (I)) or the production approach (GDP (P)). NA also includes income accounts, capital accounts, financial accounts and balance sheets.
(e) ‘State’ refers to the state sector in macroeconomic statistics which covers all eight state and territory jurisdictions in Australia.

Reference

IMF (2020), "COVID-19: How to Record Government Policy Interventions in Fiscal Statistics", Special Series on Statistical Issues in Response to COVID-19, IMF publication, viewed at https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/SPROLLs/covid19-special-notes