The MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Mac Jack last week presented his last Provincial Budget Speech of the current administration. The budget, according to Jack, is a people oriented budget, as spending is directed to human development initiatives such as improving health, quality education, basic service delivery and infrastructure development.
Jack indicated that the province is not immune to the external and internal factors that have caused major economic problems both nationally and globally. According to the MEC, new legislation will in future give teeth to the Auditor General to not only report and make recommendations, but to refer suspected material irregularities arising from an audit to the relevant institution for investigation.
The broader provincial economic picture of 25% unemployment and 0, 3% economic growth is a bad recipe to tackle the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The ANC government both national and provincial have been battling to address these triple challenges of underdevelopment.
There was some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of prospects for job creation such as the Boegoebaai commercial port, the Vedanta owned Gamsberg zinc mine, which might open a smelter and refinery post its feasibility studies. These jobs will unfortunately not be created immediately. Concerning youth job creation, Jack announced that the road building and maintenance function will be decentralised to districts; EPWP programme to be extended; youth to get artisan training and deployed on projects and supporting of a marine job project with China.
MEC Jack made provision for infrastructure spending from 2019 to 2022 of R8.7 billion of which R 2.9 billion will be spent in the 2019/20 financial year. Of this, R1.3 billion is earmarked for new and expanded infrastructure including schools, health facilities, and social housing while R429 million for rehabilitation and refurbishment.
The 2019/2020 budget of R18.2 billion is made up mainly by the equitable share (from national government) of R13,4 billion plus conditional grants of R4,5 billion and a meagre R387million of own revenue collected. The province will spend R1.2 billion towards infrastructure projects.
Jack pointed out that in line with Minister Mboweni’s early retirement proposals the province has identified 3634 employees between 55 and 59 years of age for early retirement. He said the matter will be handled sensatively, hinting that they will consult the public sector trade unions.
Education and Health departments are the biggest recipients and spenders which together represent 66% of the budget. They were allocated R6, 9 billion and R5, 2 billion respectively while R8, 4 billion of the two departments’ allocation will be spent on employees’ compensation.
The Department of Social Development was allocated R920 million and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture R404.8 million for the 2019/2020 financial year. The Department of Agriculture Land & Rural Development will receive R539 million.