By Philiswa Mbanjwa

Opposition parties said it was a case of hit and miss for Finance Minister Enoch
Godongwana in his budget speech. A nod here, a nay there, whilst others labelled it
a completely useless speech. Godongwana tabled his second budget speech since appointed by president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Tito Mboweni in August 2021. He made the speech in
parliament sitting at the Cape Town City Hall on Wednesday on 22 February.

DA’s Shadow Minister of Finance Dion George labelled the speech a missed
opportunity, saying it did not offer any bold action and failed to address urgent
economic crisis facing the country. “The Minister of Finance’s annual budget speech is yet another missed opportunity for South Africa. While he claims that bold action is necessary, the truth is that
there is nothing bold about this budget. The Minister has failed to announce any
meaningful structural reforms that could drive economic growth, incentivize
domestic savings, attract foreign capital, and protect vulnerable South Africans,”
he said.

George lambasted the budget saying; “it offers no solution to revitalise state-owned
enterprises or address the energy crisis. The Minister has missed an opportunity to
bolster domestic savings by increasing the tax free savings limits, amongst others.
“However, given South Africa’s likely Grey listing later this week, it is imperative
that these institutions’ capabilities are strengthened even further. Urgent steps must
be taken to improve collaboration between financial authorities and security
authorities if South Africa is to exit the Grey list as soon as possible.

“We further welcome incentives to provide for solar installations through
introducing a tax rebate. The Minister however did not make the bold move
required and the relief is hopelessly inadequate,” George said.
On a positive note, party welcomed the Minister’s efforts to boost crime-fighting
institutions, such as the NPA, FIC, SIU, and SAPS.

The EFF’s Julius Malema gave an uproarious response to the Minister’ speech,
saying the government had reached a cul-de-sac, “they don’t know what to do
anymore,” he lamented. “As the EFF we totally reject that budget, we think that it is not aiming at resolving the challenges we are confronted with. And there is no clear strategy on how they are going to finance the electricity crisis that we are confronted with,” Malema charged.

He expressed his disappointment on the extension of the social relief of distress grant saying, “it cannot be that we always, annually, celebrate that there’s R30 billion or so to be spent on R350. We should be speaking about reducing that amount because so many jobs have been created and as a result people have been removed from that social relief programme,” said Malema Godongwana got a slight nod from the IFP who said he did well under the circumstances.

“The emphasis on infrastructure and also the maintenance, the social grant has
been extended is something we welcome. The ability to actually reduce the deficit
without increasing taxes is something we welcome very much,” party’s deputy
president, Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi said.

He however raised concerns over the announcement of solar panels.
“We don’t think he has gone far enough to the extent of ensuring that his plans on
the power issue will alleviate the problem. Basically, the minister was saying the
poor in the disadvantaged areas should remain poor without a solution to power.
How are these people expected to afford solar panels while relying on R350
grants? The announcement on solar panels is no solution to the power challenges
the country faces,” said Buthelezi.

Some of the key highlights of the speech include a debt relief of 254billion to
Eskom. While some applauded this move by the Treasury, UDM’s Nqabayomzi
Nkwankwa has denounced it. “And now we think that by doling out more money to Eskom we are going to solve the problem without addressing the entity’s underlying challenges – which have to
do with governance and leadership. The bottom line, I don’t think we have the right
people to run the entity,” said Nkwankwa.

The Congress of the People (COPE) attacked the Minister’s speech, labelling it the
most useless speech ever. The party’s Willie Madisha argues that the speech did
not address issues facing the country. He pointed out that the Minister ignored
pertinent concerns like unemployment and poverty.

“I must indicate that for the 14 years one has been here, this is the most useless,
and it’s extremely unfortunate speech ever! We have spoken about more than 70%
of young people who are not working. Today we talk about more than 700 000
young people who have qualified for doctoral degrees and so on, who are not
working, that did not come from the minister,” Madisha said.

Meanwhile, Brett Herron of Good Party said that National Treasury needs to
reorient it’s self around the grant and see it as a permanent part of the social
security system and the basis for a basic income grant.
“One of the massive disappointments was that Treasury and the Minister of
Finance didn’t follow through the President’s commitment to increase the covid
relief grant of R350 per month. They’re still regarded as a temporary grant, which
is unacceptable, there’s no way you can get eight million South Africans a small
basic income for three years and then suddenly say, well, it’s over now, were
taking it away.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *