In its electoral promises in 2009, the current administration outlined: rural development, local government service delivery, education and health as critical priority areas that needed urgent attention. It is pleasing to note that in the current financial estimates due consideration has been accorded to these priorities, particularly interventions directed at poverty alleviation, fighting unemployment, skills development and economic recovery.
The Matric results in 2009 reflected a greater need for investment in the education sector through educator incentives and training, provision of quality education and easier access to higher education for learners that pass their Matric. The increased subsidies to Higher Education Institutions and Further Education and Training Colleges will relieve the burden of the accumulating student debt that has plagued these institutions. This will also be bolstered by higher transfers to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) through the Department of Education.
The health sector has been victimised by epidemics such as the N1H1, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases that attack especially the poor and the destitute. The allocation of R8.4 billion for the expansion of the provision of antiretroviral treatment is a welcome move for the health sector.
The budget set aside for economic recovery has taken into consideration various interventions that will assist in increasing the economic growth to the expected 2.3%. The intervention through the Automobile Production Programme will be an added benefit as this industry is one of the major contributors to the GDP of some provinces such as the Eastern Cape. Also welcome is the clothing and textiles incentive programme and the investment in public works, particularly in fighting against the unemployment. This will work hand in hand with the youth development incentive through which employers will be supported for employing young people who do not have the necessary experience.
Also noted is the increased allocation to municipal infrastructure and the provision of basic services. It is pleasing to note that there is significant allocation to the rural development programme with more than R3 billion being allocated to rural water and sanitation and rural development support through the Land Bank. However, these require the responsible departments to implement the programmes with fiscal discipline and adherence to good governance practice.
Society in general will benefit from the increased social spending on social security grants with the much awaited move of increasing the child support grant threshold to 18 years. The R6.5 billion tax relief for individuals will be welcome as it will increase people’s spending power and so will the increased tax threshold to R57 000 from R54 000 for low income earning households.
Generally, the budget has taken government priorities into consideration. Its effective implementation will enhance service delivery and the economic recovery process. However, it needs the full cooperation the government spheres and officials. The ability of government institutions to implement programmes has been previously hindered by fraud, corruption and skills gaps. It is hoped that government will continue in its endeavours of creating an environment that is conducive to the realisation of a better life for all.