While opposition parties were generally uninspired by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget he delivered on Wednesday, his most strident criticism came from within the tripartite alliance as Cosatu expressed its disillusionment with the budget.
Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator, Matthew Parks, said in a statement it was “extremely disheartened and disillusioned by the uninspiring and timid supplementary budget presented by Minister Mboweni and his technocrats”.
“This is not a budget fit for a country that is in deep recession with an expanded unemployment rate of 40%, with more millions of workers facing retrenchments.”
Parks added Cosatu had hoped for an imaginative budget, but received one that would only entrench the current economic stagnation.
“The minister rehashed the economic relief measures announced by the president a month ago. Despite the president repeatedly calling for a bold R1 trillion stimulus plan to grow the economy and smash unemployment, there was no such plan tabled today.”
He said the silence on wasteful expenditure was shameful and calling public servants essential workers “while treating them like glorified slaves” was disingenuous.
“The fat must be cut from the wages of politicians and senior managers and not among struggling workers.”
DA spokesperson on finance Geordin Hill-Lewis said Mboweni’s speech sounded like more of a plea to his own party to support the stalled economic reform agenda.
“This government has made no progress on fundamental reform to date. All available evidence suggests the passive path is the more likely path the ANC will follow. If the minister wanted to convince otherwise, he needed to lay out much more detail on how fiscal discipline will be achieved,” Hill-Lewis added.
Western Cape Finance MEC David Maynier said effectively the province’s budget had been cut by R113.1 million.
“What this means is that we are effectively on our own in the fight against Covid-19 in the Western Cape,” he added.
The EFF described the budget as predictable and uninspiring.
Its spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo, said the budget had laid bare the government’s inability to address the Covid-19 challenge.
He added the economic stimulus package was introduced as if it would bring about structural changes and radically transform the economy.
“The supplementary budget tabled is a clear indication that there is no intention to change the fundamental structure of the economy, usher in a different economy than the one before Covid-19.
“All [President Cyril] Ramaphosa and Mboweni are concerned about are to safeguard and bail out big business, in particular banks with no regards for workers and poor people,” Pambo said.
The IFP welcomed the zero-based budget approach as it allowed for flexibility in the financial management in response to the crisis.
“The minister of finance has not made any major pronouncements on the state of state-owned entities and has left far too much room for speculation in a time when certainty is required to boost investor confidence,” said its spokesperson on finance and public enterprises, Mzamo Buthelezi, in a statement.
He added the country was on a fiscal cliff and its future depended on all role players in society to fight corruption as well as to improve financial management and poor administration.
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald was left with more questions than answers after Mboweni’s speech.
“South Africa’s economy is staring into an abyss, state debt is escalating, unemployment is at record highs, the bloated public service with its union patrons are firmly in control, and the government still wants to raise an additional R43 billion over the next four years?” Groenewald said.
ACDP MP Steve Swart said the spiralling public sector wage bill needed to be reined in.
“This, together with unacceptable bailouts to SOEs [such as the R3 billion to the Land Bank), is unaffordable at this time,” Swart added.
GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron said Mboweni’s budget “made it absolutely clear that our country’s finances were in dire straits”.
“It will be a tough and narrow path we have to traverse and government will have to demonstrate its real commitment to reviving our economy if it expects the people of South Africa to keep the faith,” he added, according to a statement.
Herron said the government’s commitment to stabilising debt, improving spending patterns and pursuing economic revival was necessary.