The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) hopes the upcoming budget speech, on 23 February, will respond decisively to the many challenges facing the nation.
The unemployment rate is at an all-time high at 46%, thousands of businesses have closed, and billions are lost to corruption and wasteful expenditure. Many State-Owned Entities and municipalities are collapsing.
The Budget needs to respond to these problems and give details to some of the commitments announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address. What we cannot afford is a weak budget that merely offers platitudes. This moment calls for bold and decisive leadership and an aggressive response by government to turn things around.
Key interventions that COSATU expects the Budget to provide for, include:
- Doubling the Presidential Employment Stimulus to ensure it creates at least 2 million job opportunities to help young people earn a salary, acquire experience, and enhance public services.
- Funding to extend the R350 SRD Grant and narrow the gap with the food poverty level of R624. The Medium-Term Expenditure Framework needs to budget for its extension and use it as a foundation for a basic income grant.
- Finalising legislation to allow highly indebted and financially distressed workers limited access to their pensions. This needs to be expedited as millions struggle to survive, care for their families, and pay their debts.
- A commitment to respecting collective bargaining and to engage workers at the Public Service, SALGA and various SOE bargaining councils on matters affecting them, including conditions of service and wages.
- Announcing measures and allocating funds to stimulate economic growth. This must include finalising the amendment of Regulation 28 to allow investment funds to invest in infrastructure.
- Progress with regards to a more attractive loan package to support SMMEs by the public and private banks.
- Reversing the devastating cuts to the CCMA’s budget which has had a debilitating impact upon its ability to help millions of workers who have turned to it for help as they face a wave of retrenchments, lost wages and pensions, and unhealthy working conditions. Funds should be reallocated from within government to reinforce such critical front-line services.
- A massive increase in state investment funding through the DTIC’s industrial financing programmes, the IDC, Land Bank, and other state finance institutions. This must include resourcing the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan’s commitments and the 15 industrial sectoral master plans.
- The filling of key front-line service posts, including health workers, police and correctional service officers, teachers, and home affairs officials.
- Measures to accelerate the rolling out of government’s infrastructure programme.
- The designation of additional locally produced goods for public procurement.
- Additional support for Eskom to reduce its debt levels, ramp up maintenance, bring on board new generation and tackle corruption. The economy needs a reliable and affordable electricity if it is to recover.
- Urgent interventions to save Transnet and PRASA from destruction, including making resources available to protect the railway lines, and banning the sale and export of scrap copper. Transnet and PRASA are key to saving and creating mining, agriculture, and manufacturing jobs and to ensuring that workers in the cities can arrive at work safely, on time and at affordable prices.
- Plans to stabilise and reposition other embattled SOEs, e.g. DENEL, the Post Office and SABC.
- Plans to stablise and rebuild growing numbers of dysfunctional municipalities that are no longer able to provide basic services, including paying municipal workers.
- Investments in SARS to tackle tax evasion and customs fraud. This will help generate revenue for the fiscus, protect local jobs and boost the manufacturing sector.
- Additional taxes on the wealthy, through income, inheritance, estate, company, and luxury import taxes.
- A road map to overhaul the fuel price levy to ensure that it is placed on a sustainable level and ceases to be a burden to commuters and the economy.
- The fast processing of the long delayed Public Procurement Bill that will be sufficiently bold to provide for a single online and transparent public procurement system for the entire state. This will be key to reducing corruption and ramping up local procurement.
- Additional measures to clamp down on corruption across the state.
The government must spare South Africa another tepid budget. We don’t need a budget that outsources turning the economy around and slashing unemployment to the vagaries of the market. This will be a relinquishment of leadership. Workers expect better from the government that they elected to office.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794