I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to Minister Pravin Gordhan for presenting a balanced budget in a very difficult economic climate – not only for South Africa, but globally. The Minister touched me with his sincerity, honesty and what I sensed was genuine concern for the people and the country. As a citizen listening to the delivery of the Budget Speech, I was especially moved by his unequivocal call for a stemming of corrupt practices that lead to the misappropriation of funding resources instead of such much needed allocations being directed to important development programmes and initiatives.
To hear that Minister Gordhan is meeting resistance in terms of reviewing of the procurement management system leaves me disappointed, disgusted and yet not surprised. It is no secret that the existing procurement management system allows for funds to be channelled to enriching individuals instead of their legitimate allocation to improve the lives of people who have been relegated to the margins of society. I sincerely hope that his voice and appeal regarding stemming the tide of corruption does not remain as a “lone voice in the wilderness”. So, hats off to Minister Pravin Gordhan!
Overall, a balanced budget that gives attention to the priorities while highlighting the challenges we continue to face as a country. Given the global economic uncertainty the Minister and his team have certainly prepared and presented a satisfactory budget. For me using the National Development Plan (NDP) as the point of departure for informing the budget is important, as it demonstrates the willingness and commitment to embracing the NDP. However, my concerns are with implementation. We are all too familiar with the limitations government faces regarding its capacity and ability to deliver services and programmes in ways that are effective and efficient – the weakness in the area of implementation is what in many instances leads to wastage, under-spending and corruption.
It is however, important, to mention that there is a huge opportunity for government to work together with NGPs and civil society organisations around enhancing its capacity and ability for implementation – many of our organisations have huge experience/expertise in the implementation of development programmes. I was also pleased to see that the NDP will be aligned with existing government programmes – I sincerely hope that this is seen as a priority by all government departments. Without the necessary alignment, the country runs the risk of wastage through duplication.
The provision of a social security net for the vulnerable as well as the increases in social spending is encouraging. However, to have 11 million on social grants with a tax base of 6 million people is clearly not financially, economically and socially sustainable for the country in the long run. The challenge of growing the economy and through that creating jobs/employment is one that needs serious attention – in this regard government and business need to work together.
I appreciated the Minister calling on the private sector to play a bigger role in terms of growing the economy and employment creation; business must be held accountable and encouraged to (re)invest in new initiatives in South Africa.
The growing budget deficit is obviously a concern; in the long run it means the country is spending resources that it actually does not have. I echo the words of the Minister that spending has to managed, without discipline in this regard the impact of increasing taxes will affect the ever-shrinking tax base – the thought of increasing taxes makes me shudder as it will leave already struggling people with less disposable cash. The ever-increasing cost of living is already having huge impact on the lives of many people – many people have to do with a lot less!
I commend the Minister on the following:
- The allocation for job opportunities for young people – this will help to address the challenge the country is facing in this regard (we have to stop paying lip service to the “dignity of a job and security of an income”. I certainly hope that the employment incentive for 1st time job seekers will help to make a difference in the lives of already struggling young people.
- In terms of allocation to local government, the bias towards rural municipalities is appreciated – if these municipalities can manage these funds well, this will be a huge injection into rural development. At the same time, the re-alignment of the municipality infrastructure development programmes should really be given priority – failure to do so will encourage corruption and underspending.
- In terms of social spending, allocation for capacity development of forensics and detectives in the police services is appreciated – this will certainly ensure they are better equipped in responding to crime. With the requisite capacity they will stop to fail the many victims of crime and violence.
- Allocations to the environmental sector will enable this country to prioritise the exploration of renewable energy sources.
What disappoints me?
- The minimal increase to an already small land reform budget – given that an inclusive economy and growth path has to address the land issue, the allocation does not reflect the seriousness of government regarding this matter.
- A R60 increase for social grants for the elderly is disgusting and disappointing; many of our grannies have to continue to look after grandchildren and the increase is pitiful – this reflects badly on our society.
Although the Minister did not announce an increase in taxation, I live with the trepidation that it will come down the line – I have no trust that our leadership will be accountable and put the people of this country first. We need accountable/responsible leadership from the first citizen of this country (the president) – we need the President to lead by example in these tough economic times.
Lastly, there are opportunities for collaboration between government, business and civil society formations/organisations - we bring experience, expertise and competence in the delivery of development programmes. We have extensive experience in authentic collaboration and deep understanding of developmental practices/approaches to social change and development.
Community Development Resource Association