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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Lobby group calls for ‘pro-poor approach’ budget

The Budget Justice Coalition says SA needs a massive state-led social investment strategy and a fiscal stimulus which creates jobs, not austerity.

Describing Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden medium-term budget policy statement today as “one of the most challenging”, the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) has called for “a pro-poor approach and recognition of the state’s duty to implement fiscal policies that will make realisation of socioeconomic rights possible”.

The BJC is an alliance of civil society organs. It is made up of 20 civil society organisations, including the Alternative Information and Development; National Council Against Smoking; Section 27; Equal Education; Public Service Accountability Monitor; Studies on Poverty and Inequality Institute; Equal Education Law Centre; and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung.

The coalition said yesterday that austerity measures were being implemented “at a time when South Africa requires a massive state-led social investment strategy and a fiscal stimulus which creates jobs, redistributes resources and provides quality services to the poor”.

It has called on the National Treasury to:

  • Leverage new resources over the medium-term, rather than reallocating shrinking resources “which, to date, has led to cuts in critical social spending”;
  • Devise clear and precise plans to curb irregular expenditure, which was estimated at R45 billion in the 2017-18 audit outcomes;
  • Adequately fund social services and support vulnerable people;
  • Illustrate a clear commitment to support local government’s municipal recovery plans, particularly in relation to infrastructure, and expenditure management.

On social grants, the coalition said everyone had “the right to have access to social security”.

“Despite this constitutional guarantee, there is no provision for poor people between 18 and 59 years old. StatsSA data consistently tells a story of growing destitution for millions living in South Africa,” it said. “Not only is this a serious constitutional shortcoming, it is a betrayal of the democratic hope for a better life for millions of people, and it dampens economic growth.”

The BJC wanted to see a commitment to increase the child support grant “in line with a decent standard of living”.

On the provision of basic education, it called on Mboweni “to articulate clear commitments towards the prioritisation of early childhood development through meaningful policy”.

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