OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec’s minority Liberal government said on Tuesday it would maintain balanced budgets in 2008-09 and 2009-10, despite the global financial crisis, and promised the province would avoid a recession.
Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget also forecast there would be an election soon. Premier Jean Charest is widely expected to trigger an election campaign on Wednesday for a December 8 vote.
Exports account for half Quebec’s gross domestic product and Jerome-Forget said the predominantly French-speaking province of 7.5 million people was suffering from the slowdown in the United States, which takes 75 percent of its exports.
“I am not here to tell Quebecers that everything is just fine. The economic slowdown is real and the global financial crisis is cause for concern,” she said before presenting an economic update.
The government cut its forecast for Quebec’s economic growth in 2008 to 0.8 percent from the 1.5 percent it predicted in its March budget. It also cut its forecast for next year to 0.6 percent from 2.0 percent.
“0.6 percent is not heaven. It’s modest ... but I decided to give that number so people realize that (in) the coming year, like this year, there is going to be growth. There won’t be a recession,” she later told a televised news conference.
Jerome-Forget said only the Liberals could be trusted to manage Quebec’s economy through the crisis.
The minority Liberals currently need the support of either the right-leaning Action Democratique du Quebec or the separatist Parti Quebecois to govern. Last week Charest said neither opposition party was interested in co-operating with the government.
“What I‘m saying is that it’s an election now or an election four months from now. There’s no doubt in my mind that the objective of both opposition (parties) is to go to an election,” said Jerome-Forget.
“We need a very vigorous approach. We need a government that will be in charge and won’t move in a dramatic fashion but will steer the ship in the right direction.”
Jerome-Forget said the Liberals would speed up planned investments in infrastructure as a way of helping keep the economy afloat.
She also announced a series of modest tax measures and said the government would bring in a special program of loans and loan guarantees providing businesses with access to an additional $1 billion ($870 million) in financing.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson