With the country reeling under the weight of load shedding, unemployment and crime, all eyes will be on Finance minister Enoch Godongwana, who will table the national budget in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The budget, which outlines the steps government will take to address the country’s challenges, has in the past been used to uplift the spirits of citizens.
However, IFP deputy president, Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, who is also the party’s national finance spokesperson, said recent budgets have been unable to deal with the plethora of challenges faced by citizens — a situation making it difficult for them to trust the pledges made during the budget speech.
It’s difficult to believe that the minister of finance could announce any plans that South Africans can actually believe in.
This is the difference between trust and hope. Trust has been long broken, but now every patriotic citizen has also lost hope.
One of the highlights of today’s budget will be on the allocation National Treasury will make to power utility Eskom, which is currently battling to find cash to fix its crumbling infrastructure.
There are also expectations that Godongwana will outline bold steps on how the government intends to reduce government’s deficit, which in recent years has ballooned to over R300 billion.
The budget deficit, which reflects the extent to which the government is overspending, is regarded as a major risk to the economy by rating agencies, some of which have since downgraded the country’s economic rating to junk status.
Like the IFP, some members of the general public have accused the government of using the budget statement to make empty promises.
Professor Bonke Dumisa, an economist, said it was highly unlikely that today’s budget would be about “empty promises”.
Given the pressing challenges ranging from Eskom to unemployment, my take is that there won’t be room for empty promises.
My view is that the finance minister will do whatever is necessary to end load shedding.
On the country’s growing problem of unemployment, Dumisa said there were no easy solutions.
The problem is a structural one. We currently have a situation where there is a mismatch between the skills which the economy needs and the kind of skills currently on the market. We need to change our education system so that it can begin to produce graduates who possess the kind of skills required by the economy.
A snapshot survey conducted by The Witness ahead of today’s budget revealed that the majority of Pietermaritzburg’s citizens, organisations and businesses want to see the issue of power outages addressed as a matter of urgency.
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Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business chief executive, Melanie Veness, said businesses are expecting some quick wins from the government’s programmes designed to end load shedding.
“We urgently need to put incentives in place to alleviate grid constraints and we’re hoping that the finance minister will announce suitable incentives so that we can see some practical action being taken almost immediately.
What we are suggesting is a national campaign to move households onto a combination of solar and pre-paid. This can be done by means of a capped municipal incentive passed as a credit on services accounts and refunded to municipalities via the Treasury.
“This could be made available immediately and could alleviate pressure on the grid quite quickly. It would have the added advantage of reducing future municipal debt.”