The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is waiting with anticipation for the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) due to be tabled by the Minister for Finance at Parliament on 26 October 2022.
Workers have a lot riding on this MTBPS. Unemployment is at 44%, youth unemployment at 60%, millions of workers have lost wages, millions more are highly indebted. Many municipal workers have been left unpaid for months at a time. Many State-Owned Enterprises’ workers have been sent to the unemployment queue.
The economy remains in a deep recession, many companies have been forced to close, the state from departments to municipalities to SOEs face serious crises.
Workers are increasingly under siege from belligerent employers who see nothing wrong with undermining collective bargaining and undermining signed agreements.
The Federation hopes that government will move away from the reckless and anti-worker stunts of the previous Minister for Finance and will signal a recommitment by government to respecting collective bargaining. The right of public servants, like all other workers, to earn a living wage and be protected from inflation should be respected.
COSATU urges government to double the intake of the Presidential Employment Stimulus to ensure that it can accommodate at least two (2) million unemployed people and provide them badly needed work experience.
The roll out of the Special Relief Dispensation Grant has been one of the largest poverty relief measures since 1994. It has helped more than 10 million unemployed persons buy food and look for work. It needs to be extended, raised to the food poverty level, its administrative challenges resolved and used as a foundation for a Basic Income Grant.
COSATU is hopeful that the Minister will announce a debt relief package for Eskom. It cannot sustain its debt burden of R400 billion whilst simultaneously needing to ramp up maintenance and accelerate investments in new generation capacity. The economy cannot recover without reliable and affordable electricity. Government must provide Eskom with every assistance needed.
Decisive action is needed to rebuild Transnet and Metrorail as they are key to ensuring that our products and urban workers reach their destinations on time and safely.
Clear turn around plans, including recapitalizing, are needed for our myriad of our once world class and currently embattled SOEs. We cannot continue to tolerate the pickpocketing and abuses of workers at the Post Office, DENEL and SABC. We cannot afford to allow these SOEs to die and condemn their workers and families into absolute poverty.
The MTBPS needs to include an actual turnaround plan for local government. The Auditor-General reports on the state of our municipalities are alarming. Yet we see no sign of life in the Department responsible, COGTA. We need action before it is too late.
The Zondo Commission has shone a spotlight on the cancer of corruption eating at the heart of the state. The MTBPS needs to include specific measures to accelerate the fight against corruption, including establishing a single online public procurement system. We also expect the banning of the spouses and dependents of politicians from doing business with state. The South African Revenue Services needs to undertake lifestyle audits of politicians and senior management in the state, municipalities and SOEs.
If government is serious about turning the tide on our rising levels of crime, then we need to urgently reverse the brain drain crippling the SAPS, which has taken it from a staff complement of over 200 000 in 2000, to 172 000 today.
Treasury needs to be reigned in and abandon its reckless austerity approach to the fiscal framework. The solution to the rising levels of debt, is to stimulate the economy so businesses and workers are able to pay the taxes needed to fund the state. Government needs to tackle the billions lost annually to corruption and wasteful expenditure.
More resources need to be allocated to SARS to tackle high levels of tax evasion and collect the badly needed revenue that is due to the state.
Adequate funding of and the filling of key frontline service delivery functions across the state are critical for workers, businesses and the economy that depend upon them. Implementing ill-considered austerity budget cuts will only exacerbate the ability of the state to provide the quality public services that the economy depends upon.
Whilst there is little that South Africa can do about the international oil price driving our rise in inflation. Treasury has repeatedly promised a review of the fuel price regime, government can and must reduce the 32% taxes workers’ pay for fuel. The Department of Transport needs to be instructed by Cabinet to retable the Road Accident Fund and Road Accident Benefits at Parliament so that the forever broke RAF can be set on a sustainable financial path and be weaned off its dependence on excessive fuel price hikes.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794