Overall, World Vision South Africa joins the financial and business pundits in congratulating Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, on what the South African government’s 2013/14 budget of R1.15 trillion has proposed considering the tough economic climate the country still faces, but with some reservations.
World Vision South Africa’s focus is child-centred. Our efforts go towards reducing the under-five mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate and enabling every child in South Africa, particularly those living in underprivileged communities, to be healthy, happy and educated. We will be monitoring budget allocations and spending throughout the 2013/2014 budget period to ensure that these issues are not sidelined in any way at all.
Having said that, Minister Gordhan’s upfront announcement that the National Development Plan (NDP) is the point of departure for the national budget in 2013 with the added emphasis that, “Now we are ready to implement the National Development Plan,” was encouraging. This is good news for World Vision South Africa as the NDP is a bid to raise living standards for South Africans, particularly those living in poverty, which aligns with our stated aims.
The budget had something – whether good or bad – for everyone. For instance, there were no tax increases which is a relief for those with taxable incomes; it left smokers and drinkers somewhat downcast with an increase in sin taxes; the increase in fuel levies will affect the disposable income of most people; an expanded public works programme which aims to support 684 800 fulltime equivalent jobs in 2013/14; and so on.
Relief for the poorest of the country was evident, which will go some way to alleviating the devastating effects that living in poverty have on the children in those households.
The social assistance budget has increased by an average of 11 percent a year since 2008/09, and spending on social assistance will rise to R120 billion in 2014.
- Old age and disability grants will increase in April from R1 200 a month to R1 260;
- The foster care grant will increase from R770 to R800; and
- The child support grant will increase to R290 in April and R300 a month in October.
Massive infrastructure spending is appreciated as it contributes to employment creation and enabling a better environment for socio-economic growth. It includes; electrifying 600 000 houses at a cost of R5.7 billion, R6 billion for smallholdings and subsistence farmers, R6.5 billion extra funding for water affairs, and R42.3 billion for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, and the national road network.
As expected, education receives the biggest slice of this year's budget allocation, with close to a quarter of the total will be spent on this key priority, which is five percent higher than last year. This translates to a total of R232.5 billion for the departments of; basic education, higher education and training, and arts and culture.
The breakdown will be:
- R164 billion for basic education;
- R28.7 billion for tertiary education;
- R20.1 billion for vocational and continuing education;
- R10.6 billion for education administration; and
- R9.1 billion for recreation and culture.
According to Minister Gordhan, over the period ahead, basic education will focus on improving numeracy and literacy, expanding enrolment in grade R and reducing school infrastructure backlogs.
We trust that within this education funding allocation, urgent attention will be given to the seemingly ongoing issue of non-delivery of textbooks in Limpopo and elsewhere, the poor performance of children in mathematics, science and technology, and the results from the Annual National Assessments to ensure that the South African child is educated for life.
Another priority area for World Vision South Africa is obviously health, which received R133 billion, of which R48.8 billion will go to districts, R26.4 to the provinces, and R18.9 billion to central health services. This is commendable especially in the light of the unacceptably high number of mothers and children dying from preventable causes. We would hope to see the money being used for more than just infrastructure and actively being allocated to address this issue. It will also be interesting to see how much will address Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), nutrition and basic primary health promotion at household level. Naturally, the recently launched Integrated School Health policy must also get a fair share of the health budget cascading down to provincial, district and local levels.
A decrease in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding into South Africa has an effect on orphans and vulnerable children and an amount of R100 million was allocated to offset this funding decrease. We believe that a more permanent and sustainable solution should have been found a long time ago.
An area that was expected to see budget allocation is the new National Health Insurance, which is being piloted in 10 areas. However, this initial phase of NHI development is not placing new revenue demands on the fiscus at this stage. Gordhan did emphasise that over the longer term, however, it is anticipated that a tax increase will be needed.
The allocations for defence, public order and safety amount to R154 billion in 2013/14. Among the allocations is increased funding allocated to the National Prosecuting Authority for the Thuthuzela Care Centres, which are one-stop facilities as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, and aim to reduce secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases. Our appallingly high rates of sexual crime against women and children in this country make this a high priority area and one that we trust will be given all the focus and effort it needs to make a real difference in addressing this issue and ensuring improved protection for children in this country.
It is a heart cry in all sectors of society around the country that for any of these budgetary allocations to be truly effective, the issue of corruption must be strongly addressed.
Minister Gordhan must be commended for addressing corruption with tangible steps in the budget that include hiring a Chief Procurement Officer who will regulate tender issues, align the Public Finance Management Act and deal with government officers who do business with their employer. These are good measures, but implementation and follow up is crucial to ensure that poverty and inequality are adequately addressed.
At this stage, we trust that we are seeing the political will to put the right people in place to do the job of applying the funds to the needs; and to get rid of those who cannot or will not do it. We know that with effective implementation and accountability at all levels this budget is able to do more – and achieve its targets.
Advocacy and External Engagements Advisor
World Vision South Africa
Tel: 011 285 1700
World Vision South Africa