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Debate on the MTBPS Division of Revenue Bill by D. Senokoanyane

14 November 2017

Honourable Speaker

It is yet again a time for us to debate the Division of Revenue Bill and this time, in midterm. Challenges remain but we all have a job at hand to serve our people, a task that is never going to be easy. The economy is giving all those who care, sleepless nights as we ponder how we are going to tackle the challenges confronting us. However, the consolation is that the ANC government has made a commitment to the people, and we cannot afford to fail them in spite of all the questions we keep asking ourselves on the way forward. The National Development is in place and it is our guide even though there are all sorts of constraints in our way as we work towards achieving its objectives. But hey we do have men and women among us who are equal to the task and will stop at nothing to make sure that we get there even if it means making the ultimate sacrifices.

The ANC government has been very consistent in its mission to address issues of economic and social transformation as well as inclusive growth. Transformation is a key factor in dealing with the historical apartheid injustices, characterised by inequality. The budget, as usual, is redistributive in nature, making sure the gap between the wealthy and the poor who are almost entirely black people, is narrowed. This is a phenomenon that always makes one wonder. South Africa is not a poor country and we should not be having such huge disparities, people must come forward to help this country if they are patriotic at all, just realise that with this government everyone matters and equal access should be the way to go. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if this government were to behave like its apartheid counterpart, utilising the budget for a chosen few and pretending that everyone else does not exist. What do you think?

The South African economy is going through one of the most challenging times, with low growth and increasing government debt as well as investor confidence at an all-time low. It is not only government that is concerned about this situation but ordinary people, be it individuals or organisations, have raised concerns and made submissions to Parliament and engaged with the committee. It was not by mistake that this government included public participation as a key component of its work but it was a conscious effort to make sure that we make decisions from an informed position. I think we have a great country

Poverty and unemployment are on the rise and this obviously must raise alarm bells, and this government has decided to take this one head-on by protecting social programmes which target the poor and disadvantaged citizens, including low-income households, hence we see the bulk of the budget being directed there. The difficulty though, is that this needs to be coupled with economic growth in as much as this seems to be a far-fetched dream, but it is a dream in the right direction. We do not have an option but to soldier on and find ways of reviving the economy. Fiscal consolidation has assisted our economy for quite some time now, but with the current economic climate it becomes an uphill, yet I must commend our Treasury for holding on and doing everything possible to halt any spending above the set ceiling, a policy choice with a potential to give us some breathing space. Unfortunately there are other factors that continue to compromise these efforts.

Job creation should be at the top of our priority list but of course there are hurdles along the way. Government is facing a huge challenge and as you know it has been the biggest employer over many years, yet it is not a profit-making institution. Can those with money please dig deeper and come on board to provide employment. Surely we should all be concerned about the state of affairs.

Redistribution of resources from the wealthy to the poor is a positive step, as well as provinces and municipalities having a responsibility to redistribute resources from the cities to the remote areas is one of the highlights as this is an anomaly that we have perhaps not paid adequate attention to. I hope those who are only interested in Metros and have no time for poorer areas are listening, it is no longer going to be about Metros only, and resources shall be shared.

Guided by the National Development Plan midterm spending priorities continue to focus on low income households to decrease the number of people living below the poverty line, an inclusive public health system as we have seen the introduction of the National Health System which will change the system where only the wealthy benefit, and promote equal access for all, and the provision for additional support to the antiretroviral treatment programme with the aim of reaching out to more beneficiaries. It is exciting to see that this phenomenon of health will no longer be a reserve of a few who can afford to pay or have Medical Aids, but all citizens of this country will have equal access. Yes, those with bags full of money must fund this programme. We need the NHI as of yesterday and once it is fully in place, one of our battles will have been won

On education the area of Early Childhood Development has proven to be a big contributor towards children's further development into other stages of childhood and to adulthood, and it prepares the young child for school readiness as well as other future life milestones. Raising life expectancy at birth can also benefit this programme. Over decades, it has been an ongoing challenge for students from poor households to access university education even though they qualify, as they cannot afford the high costs involved, and this division of revenue has taken this into consideration as part of the social package.

Proposals for the division of revenue, focus on funding of services for poor communities being prioritised, with provincial allocations focussing on social services which include education and health while municipalities are subsidised for the delivery of free basic services to low-income households and the necessary infrastructure for the delivery of these services. Social services have seen annual growth in revenue at all spheres of government, including proposals in the current MTBPS, an encouraging pattern indeed. Provinces and municipalities stand to benefit from the changes in the equitable division of nationally raised revenue through their adjusted allocations, not for themselves but for the communities they serve. This is one of the features of a democratic government, coupled with a focus on transformation. Directing resources to the most vulnerable is one of the mechanisms with a potential to address the social inequalities that continue to affect this sector of society. It is also an indirect investment to the welfare of the country by providing services which can promote their wellbeing and dignity.

Before this process of adjustment the Cabinet responded to the current economic challenges by identifying the need to strengthen the alignment of the budget instruments and the National Development Plan, a process which culminated in the development of a Mandate Paper, a joint venture by National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation. This paper has a focus on establishing a framework for future budget priorities in line with the goals of the NDP, and sets out criteria for future prioritization to guide the consideration of future budget proposals.

Honourable Speaker, I support this

     
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