KZN Budget: Good but can still do more to address social ills of the province, said the province’s renowned economists
13 Mar 2012
This year’s annual post-budget business breakfast hosted by Provincial Treasury levelled the ground for robust discussion among the province’s senior economists in a bid to interrogate the provincial budget in order to expose its strength and weaknesses.
This breakfast, sponsored by Absa Bank and held at the Hellenic Community Hall, Durban, saw three renowned economists, Prof Bonke Dumisa, Glen Robbins and the Treasury’s very own Simiso Mgagula sharing the debating platform as a way of levelling the ground for more interaction on the budget.
Explaining the purpose of the breakfast, Head of Department, Simiso Magagula said the purpose of the provincial breakfast was to give the KwaZulu-Natal business fraternity an opportunity to interrogate the budget and see the extent to which it has a potential to address the development-related challenges facing the province.
“We want to see KwaZulu-Natal working, and if this budget cannot create space for that, then there is something wrong with it,” he said.
Prof Bonke Dumisa said the budget is very positive and fully in line with the national budget presented by National Treasury Minister, Pravin Gordhan.
“What pains most of us is seeing certain government departments not delivering on the expectations of the people. I would like to see a stage where non-performing departments get their budgets cut until they deliver and this approach has the potential of encouraging all departments to do their best to serve the people of the province,” said Prof Dumisa.
He said the province needs to shed the grants-dependency syndrome and ensure that we reduce dependency on the state in terms of grants and create a situation where people can be self-sufficient.
Glen Robbins, I enjoy monitoring the public sector budget and what has been presented by MEC Cronjé is a very sound budget and it has all the signs of putting the province on a sound development footing.
“A lot of the bad decision we make in the public sector spending are around infrastructure and we need to extend our infrastructure planning to cover the next five years. We must think of the big drivers of the public sector financing and know how to meet the demands of the developing economy,” said Robbins.
Robbins said that KwaZulu-Natal must confront the fact that provincial administration spends more money on its personnel than on its development programmes when compared with other provinces and we must find ways to address this illness.
Magagula said “I like the point about possibly extending the planning horizon and going beyond the three year period. But the new infrastructure planning approach ensures long term planning, ensuring that there is long term benefit. Speaking as an economist myself, our budget needs to focus on other areas that we might have missed to ensure holistic growth planning for the province.”
Magagula said that the wage bill is one of the items that will be discussed at the next budget council at a national level and agreed that it still remains a challenge.
Head of Absa’s Public Sector, Shiva Makotoko, said “As the official banker to the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, Absa remains proud of its partnership with the province and looks forward to further facilitating the boom that the region is poised to undertake. Furthermore, we support the province’s responsible fiscal discipline and austerity aimed at ensuring that the there is sufficient revenue to cover expenditure, thereby allowing the Province to provide sustainable service delivery to all its citizens”.
She said these measures have the potential to empower all to realise their economic, civil, political rights.
Speaking after listening to the economists, MEC for Finance, Ina Cronjé said, “The points made by economists are relevant and sound and this shows that when we do our re-prioritisation, we have to be open enough to allow some wise council. However, with the budget just presented, we want to improve our level of efficiency and ensure we get value for money for every cent we spend as government,” she said.
Other business people decried little focus on women empowerment initiatives, agricultural initiatives and prioritisation of cooperatives by the provincial budget.
The annual budget breakfast was followed by the first leg of Cronjé post-budget roadshow in uMlazi, south of Durban.
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Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury
13 Mar 2012
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