The national government’s decision to implement cost containment measures which will see departments spending less than they previously planned, should be applauded.
According to a national Treasury circular, departments are barred from spending on catering, hiring new employees (unless there is written approval from Treasury) and signing new contracts for infrastructure projects, among other things.
The cost-cutting measures are necessary following a negative economic outlook due mainly to load shedding.
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In the context of private businesses, cost-cutting measures are regarded as a natural response when a business cannot keep up with costs.
However, when it comes to government, the implementation of cost-cutting measures is viewed as a courageous decision given that such a decision carries the risk of alienating citizens.
There are many instances where governments have either deferred the implementation of cost-cutting measures or completely avoided them for fear of becoming unpopular.
As it stands, catering businesses and other organisations whose main source of income is government contracts, are likely to suffer as a result of the cost containment measures.
Employees of private companies that depend on government infrastructure projects also stand to suffer as a result of the cost containment measures.
Unemployed people who were hoping to be absorbed by the government will not be able to secure jobs.
Indeed, there is no doubt that the announcement by national Treasury has created a lot of unhappiness among sections of the population.
However, the reality is that the measures are necessary to avert a situation where government ends up being forced to push up its debt to even more unaffordable levels.
Given that there is a general election on the horizon, it could have been tempting for government to ignore the red flags and continue with its current levels of spending.
But it chose to do the right thing by slamming on the brakes on spending.
For that, we need to commend it.