CQUniversity Resource Economist, Professor John Rolfe
CQUniversity Resource Economist, Professor John Rolfe

COVID-19 research paper gives CQ hope

THE Queensland economy has been largely flipped on its head, making economies such as Central Queensland, which has historically been vulnerable to factors like volatile resource markets and drought, now among the state's most secure.

A new economic research paper published by the Rural Economics Centre of Excellence from CQUniversity Professor of economics John Rolfe has found much of regional Queensland may be primed to ride out the worst of the economic impacts posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While an economic blow is all but unavoidable, Professor Rolfe stated in his conclusion "many regional areas (apart from Cairns) are slightly less affected than south-east Queensland."

The report said pandemic-related economic impacts were based on several key forces; government controls, which are limiting business operations, reductions in customer demand and flow-on effects through the economy.

Such pressures are likely to impact other sectors more than others with the tourism, hospitality, arts and entertainment and personal services industries identified as the most vulnerable.

However, according to the report those sectors only account for about 20 per cent of the Queensland economy.

Larger sections of the economy (agriculture, mining and construction) have only experienced limited impacts from the pandemic.

Historically secure government employment will remain just that and with public servants forming 10 percent of Queensland's total workforce, it may provide a base line security.

"The size of the economic impacts across regional areas will vary. In general, areas of the economy with greater exposure to tourism and recreation will be more badly affected than those that are not," the report stated.

Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe
Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe

The report found job losses upwards of 190,000 was a potential impact staring down southeast Queensland while nearly all other Queensland regions would see losses of 10,000 or less.

When broken down into percentages, regions with tourism-based economies like the Gold Coast Sunshine Coast and Cairns face reductions to total employment of 16 per cent or more while the rest of regional Queensland between 9.7 per cent (Outback Queensland) and 13 per cent (Mackay).

Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe
Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe

The agricultural and mining-centric Central Queensland will be one of the best positioned regions when it comes to reductions in incomes at just six per cent, as opposed to tourism-centric Cairns which will face up to 11 per cent income reductions.

However, Prof Rolfe the same affect may be seen within regions.

In Central Queensland for example, areas such as the Livingstone Shire are more exposed to the before mentioned vulnerable industries while areas such are the Central Highlands are not.

Prof Rolfe said while many regional economies may be slightly more fortunate than their urban and coastal counterparts in the short term, the longer-term outlook was grim.

"Economic disruptions generate change, and the outcomes of this disruption has some concerning trends for regional economies," he said.

Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe
Figures from a new report by CQUniversity Economist John Rolfe

"Businesses are learning to supply customers remotely, while customers are embracing delivery and digital services, breaking traditions and habitual patterns.

"As economies rebuild post-COVID-19, the risks for regional areas is that local businesses cannot compete effectively and that the urban-regional divide increases further."

Prof Rolfe forcasted a potential post-COVID-19 scenerio where domestic travel restrictions were lifted but international remained closed, thus helping affected sectors.