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CBA v Westpac v NAB: 3 predictions on when life returns to ‘normal’

·4-min read
The exterior of a Westpac, NAB and CBA branch. A group of friends celebrating with beers.
The big banks disagree of when life will return to 'normal'. Here are three predictions for for when we might be in a post-COVID life (Source: Getty)

This week, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor Philip Lowe said the economy will be back to its pre-Delta level in the second half of next year.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced her reopening plan for NSW, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international travel will resume when we hit a 70 to 80 per cent vaccination rate.

But where do the big banks stand? This is what the Commonwealth Bank (CBA), Westpac and the National Australia Bank (NAB) had to say.

NAB: Mid-November freedom with proper planning

National Australia Bank (NAB) CEO Ross McEwan said the Aussie economy can be open and thriving by mid-November this year so long as the Government puts proper planning in place in the lead up.

Speaking at the Economics Committee on Thursday, McEwan said current forecasts show Aussies will be 80 per cent vaccinated by mid-November.

“This is our light at the end of the tunnel. Our communities need hope. Our businesses need clarity, to plan for the future,” he said.

“The National Cabinet plan states that, when we hit the 80 per cent vaccination target, vaccinated residents will be exempt from all domestic restrictions. Australians need more detail on what this means and how it would work.”

McEwan said Australia needs its own vaccine passport program, providing similar freedoms to those seen in Europe. And, he added, this needs to be ready to launch by the November target.

“This should be developed alongside existing plans for an international vaccine passport for Australians to prove their immunisation status overseas and on their return to Australia,” McEwan said.

“When we can safely move from restrictions to freedoms, I am very confident the Australian economy will recover swiftly.”

McEwan said that once international borders open, businesses will be able to fill labor shortages and the tourism industry will be able to start rebuilding.

These factors will help boost the Aussie economy, adding to a speedy recovery.

CBA: No ‘normal’ until late next year

However, the Commonwealth Bank sees things differently. Its head of Australian economics Gareth Aird believes the economy won’t return to its pre-Delta strength until beyond the second half of next year.

“Our working assumption is that the economy will not have clear air from COVID-19 until the middle of next year, which means that we are unlikely to find ourselves on the pre-Delta path until later in 2022,” Aird said.

“From that point we expect the economy to be firing well and very strong outcomes are likely.”

Despite a roaring recovery from lockdowns last year, the Delta valiant has changed the game, Aird said.

“We think that NSW will not exit the lockdown in any material sense until the 80 per cent vaccination threshold has been met (November). And the daily number of new COVID cases in Victoria means that residents of Australia’s second largest state appear consigned to the same fate as NSW,” he said.

“This means that Victoria is also likely to be in lockdown until the middle of the December quarter.”

Aird said the Aussie economy will only start its rebound in the last quarter of 2022.

A concept to illustrate the daily impact of the Covid-19 virus on the public as a whole. A static sign displays messaging regarding the pandemic.
CBA believes the Delta variant has changed the game for re-opening plans (Source: Getty)

Westpac: Australia needs to ‘stop hiding’ from COVID-19

Westpac chief executive Peter King said Australia will ultimately have to “stop hiding from COVID”.

“I think as we enter the next phase, really the way we’re thinking about it is we’ll have to stop hiding from COVID,” King told The Trans-Tasman Business Circle’s Let’s get on with the jab series.

Unlike CBA’s prediction King said the Aussie economy is “raring to go” once lockdowns are eased.

“We’ve got to have a system that can handle the health consequences of more COVID in the community,” King said.

“You can’t keep hiding (from) this Delta strain. And the big message to the company and customers is get vaccinated, that’s the way we stop hiding.”

King said a major piece of the puzzle will be rapid antigen testing, which he said could be the answer to reopening the economy.

Westpac is currently working through a plan requiring workers undergo rapid antigen testing at some work sites.

“That’s a piece of the puzzle we’re working very hard on so we can have that in the options available to help us manage it,” he said.

King envisions a future of high vaccination rates, rapid antigen testing readily available and in use and a roaring economy.

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