The government is “increasingly dishonest” in its presentation of the budget.
Less money is being spent on health than on the military and the police and the cuts to government programs necessitated by the re-prioritization of money will deepen the recession and weaken service delivery.
That’s some of the criticism the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) activist group expressed on Thursday against Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget on Wednesday.
Most of the R21.5 billion allocated to the state’s health sector in the budget was “reallocated” from the February budget.
The real extra money made available in the supplementary budget for health-related spending is half of what the military and police get, the BJC says.
The coalition says it is “astonishing” that only R2.9bn of additional funding is allocated to the entire health sector to deal with the pandemic, while the military and police receive R6.7bn of new funding. “It just underscores how draconian and wrong the government’s general response to the restriction is, especially in the townships.”
The BJC says only R36bn of the R500bn economic relief promised for the pandemic is new money. It’s not even close to a “stimulus” or even an adequate relief package, the group believes.
Due to the reallocation of money, social sectors such as basic education now often have less money to spend than was allocated to them in February, despite the extra burden the pandemic brings.
“At the same time, this (supplementary) budget deepens austerity by proposing a wide range of cuts in essential government programs – including infrastructure spending, which can have some of the most positive impacts to support the economy.
“It will deepen the recession, hamper service delivery and delay the recovery.”
The group is hijacking Mboweni because no “solidarity taxes” have been placed on high income, wealth or financial assets to reduce the state’s income gap.
At the same time, the R25bn new funding for social grants is “less than half of the R50bn promised in the original economic relief”.
“Poor administration and criteria that exclude certain people, means the special Covid 19 grant does not reach millions of people in dire need, including unemployed foreigners in South Africa.
“The government needs to consider a basic income allowance that is simpler to administer, which is financed by progressive wealth tax, high income and wealth income.”
The BJC says other promises for economic relief are not reaching the people who need it. For example, of the R100bn promised to protect jobs and for small businesses, only R6bn was allocated in this financial year.
Moreover, the budget is completely “gender-blind”, despite the spate of violence against women and children. “It does not mention any of the funding promised by the president for the fight against violence against women and children.
“With provinces required to find R20bn in their existing budgets to re-prioritize health and other pandemic services, huge savings on all budgets are expected from provincial departments.
“There are no guidelines in the supplementary budget that require the province’s programs to help women and children.”
The BJC says it is also concerned about the increasing “dishonesty of the government in the way the budget is presented”.
The group believes some of the budget proposals that will provoke great controversy have been concealed.