The state government should target economic growth rather than cuts to deal with its looming coronavirus-driven debt surge, economist Saul Eslake says.
Mr Eslake described the government's projected increase in net debt from $645 million in the current financial year to $2.3 billion in 2021-22 as enormous.
However, he argued it was not a reason to panic, especially with interest rates so low.
... the government certainly shouldn't be in any hurry to start paying it down.Saul Eslake
He said the government was expected to actually pay almost $5 million less on interest this financial year and almost $2 million less next financial year than it projected in the 2019-20 budget.
"This underscores my view that neither the government nor anyone else should be panicking about the increase in debt, and the government certainly shouldn't be in any hurry to start paying it down," Mr Eslake said.
"At a rough guess, the forecast net debt of $2.7 billion represents a little over 6 per cent of GSP (economic growth measure gross state product).
"We've certainly had worse than that before, when interest rates were much higher than they are now."
He estimated projected 2020-21 net debt would be 6.1 per cent of GSP.
That would be the highest proportion since 5.2 per cent in 2001-02, but would be much lower than numbers consistently above 11 per cent and once over 15 per cent in the 10 years which ended in 1998-99.
Mr Eslake said he believed the government should focus on growing gross state product, "which I am sure they will, until the recovery is firmly on track, which may take a couple of years".
"Then, but not before then, they can start to take harder decisions (as in cuts)."
Premier Peter Gutwein said public sector cuts had not been considered.