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Projected to lead Canada in growth again next year

REGINA -- Buoyed by a diverse mix of mineral resources and agricultural commodities, Saskatchewan will lead the country in economic growth this year and next, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

The 5.2 per cent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2008 and the expected 3.6 per cent growth in 2009 show the province's continued strength in the face of the global financial turmoil, the conference board said Thursday.

In addition, double-digit growth is forecast in both personal disposable income and retail sales this year, the Ottawa-based economic forecasting agency said.

"The domestic economy is really strong in Saskatchewan this year," said Marie-Christine Bernard, an economist with the conference board.

Saskatchewan is leading the nation in retail sales, wholesale trade and exports this year -- and is in second place in housing starts, building permits and new vehicle sales.

Employment is forecast to increase by a strong 1.9 per cent in 2008 and 1.8 per cent in the 2009. In 2008, personal disposable income gains are expected to rise by a robust 10.3 per cent, and retail sales will increase by 12.2 per cent.

Crop production this year has been above average and the agriculture sector is forecast to grow by 4.1 per cent in 2008.

The newly announced reductions in provincial personal income taxes and in the provincial debt, as well as an additional $500 million for infrastructure spending, will help strengthen the economy in this period of global turbulence.

"Households are going to receive that money in early 2009 and that will keep the economy strong," Bernard said. "On top of that, they also announced additional infrastructure spending (in 2009 of) $500 million."

ATTRACT PEOPLE FROM OTHER PROVINCES

The provincial economy is dependent on the export sector, which benefited in the first half of 2008 from high prices for key exports, such as grains, oil, potash, and uranium. However, commodity prices have retreated since the end of the summer.

Nevertheless, the economic outlook for Saskatchewan remains robust due to expanding production in the primary sector bolstered by high demand in growing economies such as China and India.

"I know that commodity prices have come down, moreso since summer. But if we look (ahead) two or three or five years, the outlook for prices is quite good," she said.

Even with the volatility in oil prices, Bernard says, the oil and gas industry will continue to explore and develop the province's oil and gas resources.

The bright economic outlook will continue to attract migrants from other provinces, sustaining strong growth in the domestic economy in 2009.

Johnston B 2008, ‘Sask. will lead Canada in economic growth: forecast ‘, Regina Leader Post, 14 November

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