African Monitor congratulates the Minister of Finance for presenting a sober but very solid budget. We note the global economic context of his speech which indeed acknowledges the fact that the prospect of an economic cataclysm requires bold and innovative budgetary interventions. So, recognising that the “transition has brought sizeable disruptions” which must have significantly curtailed the Minister’s options in framing the budget, we are satisfied by the Minister’s pledge that “we will not be deaf to the voice of those in pain”.
Protecting the poor has been made one of the five enduring principles that guided the framing of his budget. Trevor Manuel has attempted to come good by allocating the largest adjustments to spending plans worth R25 billion to poverty reduction in terms of provincial budgets for health and education and R13 billion for social assistance grants, along with the R4 billion added to the school nutrition programme and R2.5 billion to municipalities for basic services. Also, significantly, the Minister has given some attention to agricultural support for small-scale farmers and investment in rural roads, land reform and land restitution.
Although the amounts may not be as big as is called for by the enormity of the situation, the awareness that corruption needs to be curbed or, to use the Minister’s words, that “the criminal justice system has to put those who rob and thieve behind bars”, then what that money will buy will be significant.
We as African Monitor will quickly put a mechanism in place to monitor how the commitments made in this budget, particularly those going to social grants, agricultural support and housing, which featured prominently in the recently concluded Poverty Hearings around the country, are honoured and reach the people who need them the most.
Strategic Advisor to President