Comprehensive vaccine roll-out plan, economic growth must be central to 2021/22 provincial budget

Note to editors: Please find a soundclip from Adriana Randall MPL in English here and Afrikaans here

Gauteng MEC for Finance and e-Government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko is set to introduce the 2021/22 budget in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), on Thursday, 11th March 2021.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) expects the MEC to focus on how the province will be using the budget to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic by strengthening the health care system, as well as a comprehensive roll-out plan of the Covid-19 vaccine. These are critical, considering that last year the Department of Health approached the Gauteng Provincial Treasury (GPT) for additional funding.

The budget will also need to speak to definite time-lines of the vaccine roll-out, and additional funding to modernize the provincial health infrastructure, to cater for the ever increasing number of patients due to in-migration and inability to pay for medical services.

In this regard, the DA calls for the GPT to ensure there is a bigger allocation together with the Provincial Equitable Share from National Government to deal with the pandemic-related interventions. The worst case scenario would require assistance from contingency reserves.

Measures to create the correct environment for the economy to grow should also be at the forefront on this year’s budget. During his State of the Province Address, Premier David Makhura called for the Township Economy Bill to be timeously processed and has especially promised support for SMMEs and township enterprises where it concerns doing business with the province and creating jobs.

While the bill has been well received by many, there is a credible fear that it promotes xenophobia, by prohibiting foreigners from participating in the township economy. Further to this, the bill also conflicts with national legislation and mandates of other departments, causing future duplication of structures and wasteful expenditure.

The DA supports initiatives that will promote economic growth in the province but due to a lack of political will, jobs for pals, cadre deployment and shortage of skills and knowledge, tangible economic growth will continue to be hampered. It is also concerning to note that the province has been preaching about Public-Private Partnerships but still fails to show one successful project.

Economic reforms must be implemented in order to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth through the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

However, in order for us to truly see a province that is working we need to fight corruption, but this provincial government continues to demonstrate no political will in doing so. Lip service will not change the situation, only consequence management and the implementation of guidelines set out by National and Provincial Treasury.

Gauteng is in a precarious fiscal position and this can only be fixed by doing the following:

  • Restraining compensation budget ceilings based on fairness, equity and affordability
  • Reversing public entities and local government financial and operational positions caused by maladministration and government failures through financial management

In addition to this, the DA is also concerned about government’s refusal to pilot the much talked about Integrated Financial Management System as this will provide an integrated framework.

During this financial year it is also expected that local governments will see serious cuts in conditional grants, worsening the growing deficit due to Covid-19 expenditure. The MEC will need to act in the best interest of the residents in keeping the Gauteng Provincial Government’s salary bill under 60% over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework. Many Gauteng municipalities are in dire financial distress and the DA hopes that the MEC will outline how these municipalities will be supported through the budget.

Given that the Department of Education is one of the two biggest departments in the province, the DA hopes there will be no reduction in this budget, resulting in disaster due to in-migration and densification in the province.

Social spending needs to be protected as we cannot place the burden on the poor and vulnerable any longer whilst a politically-connected elite continue to enjoy the benefit of being in the inner circle of cadre deployment and corruption.

It is clear that resources will be spread thin this year, however, in order to ensure that the residents of Gauteng are given proper and effective service delivery, the DA sincerely hope that the MEC will ensure that, where monies set aside for key projects are not spent on time and in budget, that consequence management does indeed materialise and that duplications of services through entities are eradicated.