The 2013/14 budget for the Eastern Cape was introduced in the provincial legislature on Thursday morning by Finance MEC Phumulo Masualle.
The opposition party, led by DA East Cape leader Bobby Stevenson had these comments; “Education is walking on a fiscal tightrope. The education budget increases from R26, 287 billion to R26, 972 billion, which is a mere 2, 6 %. If the department fails to deal with the issue of the 6 700 double parked educators and the thousands of employees on extended sick leave, the education budget won’t balance. It will plunge this province into a financial crisis.
“Overall the budget has increased by 5, 4% over the previous year, which highlights the extremely tight fiscal space in which the province is operating in. There is absolutely no room for wastage, corruption and maladministration.
“R1, 2 billion which could have been appropriated for service delivery has been top-sliced to deal with the previous year’s financial mismanagement.
“The issue of the bloated bureaucracy in spite of the MEC’s commitment in the previous financial year was simply not addressed. R38, 478 billion of the province’s total budget of R59, 258 billion is going to the cost of employees. When one takes out the conditional grants, this amounts to 75% of the direct equitable share component of the budget of R50, 164 billion. (Conditional grants amount to R9, 461 billion). This means more and more for personnel and less and less for service delivery.
“The biggest winner is the Health Department, whose budget is increased by R1, 418 billion to R16, 584 billion, an increase of 9, 3%. Economic Development, Environmental Affair and Tourism increases by 15% to R1, 070 billion. However, key departments which impact on economic growth such as Rural Development and Agrarian Reform has barely increased, while Roads and Public Works has decreased by R71 million. The biggest concern is the reduction in the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant of 28%. Roads are the life blood of our economy and a poor roads network destroys jobs.
“We welcome the increase in the budget of Human Settlements by R256 million.”
Organised business represented by Kevin Hustler, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber had this to say; “We commend Eastern Cape finance MEC and ANC provincial chairperson, Phumulo Masualle, for acknowledging that the growth and development of the Eastern Cape will become a reality only through a focus on fiscal discipline, with an eye to protecting what progress has already been made. Faith in the institutions of our province is achievable through a zero-tolerance approach to corruption at all levels of business and government, and a commitment to the implementation of sustainable plans of action. We support the notion that all stakeholders from business, labour, government and civil society should build a unified vision for the province to the benefit of all who live and work here. We support the MEC in his call for a focus on the maintenance and development of critical physical infrastructure to support the expansion of the Eastern Cape economy. It is imperative also that steps be taken to improve the overall quality of life of people within our region.
“We look to these developments with cautious optimism and advocate for strong and decisive leadership to position the province to take its rightful place on the path to reaching its full economic potential for the benefit of all its citizens.
“The modest growth recorded in the manufacturing industry is welcomed, as is job creation as a result of that small growth. The focus on increasing tourism into the province is welcomed, in line with the region’s Industrial Development Strategy, which identified this sector as a growth market. We recognise, however, that the economy of South African needs to grow threefold in order to create sufficient job opportunities. We are pleased with the news that there have been drastic changes in infrastructure spend in the province, especially in education and health, where the most serious attention is needed.
“We welcome, also, the news that there has been an improvement in Education spending, to 70.35%, and would want to see further significant improvements on this figure to address urgently the current countrywide education crisis. We will watch with interest the implementation of the Infrastructure HR Capacitation framework – the province must see drastic improvements in institutional capacity to implement infrastructure projects in 2013. This money needs to be spent wisely at the coal face in creating a conducive environment for learners, focusing on the key areas of maths, science and
technology, as well as encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship.
“Organised business grants kudos to the MEC for openly acknowledging the challenges faced by the province. What is needed, however, is swift and urgent action to prevent further slippages. We look with trepidation to the further pressure that will be placed on the province by the loss of R5.1 billion in Equitable Share over the medium term and trust that an appropriate plan will be put in place to address this challenge.
“One of the provinces biggest challenges is the high rate of youth unemployment. We support the administration of the province in their acceleration of strategic measures to create jobs. We advocate a balanced, strategic long-term approach to sustainable job creation in our province.
“Overall, the budget appears to take into account the numerous challenges faced by our province. What we need to see now is evidence of implementation and focus on service delivery. Organised business believes it is vital that the province takes concrete steps towards creating an enabling environment for business, to enhance our trade and grow the investment so desperately needed in this region to revitalize the socio-economic landscape.”
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