COSATU Presented its Submission on the 2023/4 Budget’s Appropriation Bill to Parliament today

The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) presented its submission on the 2023/4 Budget’s Appropriation Bill to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriation’s hearings. 

COSATU is deeply worried that the Budget and Appropriation Bill are tepid and insufficiently bold to stimulate an economy still struggling to emerge from a devastating recession and global pandemic; reduce a dangerously high unemployment rate of 42.6%; and rebuild a state weakened by a decade of state capture, corruption and reckless austerity budget cuts.  Whilst it is important to ensure that the public debt is placed on a sustainable trajectory, this cannot be at the expense of growing the economy and rebuilding the public services that society depends upon.

If government is to deliver upon the State of the Nation Address’ commitments, then it needs to rebuild its broken relationship with public servants.  The wage bill has been stable at 35% of the budget since 2008.  The cause of the fiscal crises are the billions lost to corruption and wasteful expenditure, and the mismanagement of the state and SOEs.  These are the issues that need to be fixed.  Pickpocketing police officers and cleaners of inflationary increases to protect their meagre wages will solve nothing except to fuel the brain drain of nurses, teachers and doctors to better paying jobs in the private sector and overseas.  Government needs to continuously engage on the wage bill with organised labour at the PSCBC to find win-win solutions towards protecting public servants from inflation, rebuilding the state and stabilising the fiscus. 

COSATU applauds the excellent work done by the employees at SARS who have exceeded the 2022 revenue collection target by R94 billion and thus enabling government to plug numerous holes in the fiscus.  This shows the value of investing in the public service and its employees.

The Federation welcomes the relief measures provided for in the Budget and the Appropriation Bill.  However, COSATU is deeply aggrieved that in a sea of youth unemployment, Treasury sought fit to slash the Presidential Employment Initiative from R24 billion to R9 billion and is planning to shut this invaluable lifeline down in 2024!  It is scandalous for the Budget to pencil in a 4.5% salary increase for Members of Parliament yet offer a 0% increase in the value of the SRD Grant which has been at R350 since it commenced in 2020.  These callous budgetary cuts to these progressive programmes need to be reversed by Parliament.

The R4 billion fuel tax relief for commuters is welcome, but government needs to table the RAF and RABS Bills at Parliament to set the RAF on a sustainable path and reduce the need for fuel tax hikes.  Whilst welcoming support for renewable energy investments, it critical that government’s solar panel programme for poor households be revived.

COSATU is pleased with the progress being made in drafting legislation that will enable financially struggling workers limited early access to their pensions.  It is key that this comes into effect by 1 March 2024.

The Federation welcomes the hiring of an additional 15 000 SAPS members.  More needs to be done to reinforce the SAPS, NPA, SARS and the judiciary if we are to win the war on crime and corruption.  This needs to include tasking SARS to conduct lifestyle audits of the wealthy and cracking down on tax evasion and customs fraud.

COSATU welcomes the R254 billion debt relief for Eskom.  This is key to enabling it to ramp up its maintenance programmes and investing in new generation capacity and thus ending the loadshedding crippling the economy.  More support needs to be given to Eskom to close its fiscal leakages and tackle the criminality decimating it.  Whilst appreciating the additional funds allocated to rebuilding Transnet and Metro Rail, these too need to be accompanied by support from law enforcement if the rail network is to be protected by criminal syndicates stripping it.

COSATU is aggrieved that we still do not see clear turn around plans to rebuild our many embattled SOEs, in particular DENEL, the Post Office and SABC, as well as the countless municipalities struggling to provide basic services and with 27 routinely failing to pay their own employees.  The pending retrenchments of 4000 postal employees and the slashing of the remaining 9000 staff’s wages by 40% needs to be stopped.

The increased allocations to fund infrastructure investments, in particular transport and water, as well as NSFAS and SARS are welcome.  We are however dismayed by the below inflation increases and thus cuts in real terms to key frontline services including basic education, home affairs, police and the judiciary.  This will merely further weaken the capacity of the state to deliver quality public services.

Elections will take place in 11 months.  Government does not have the luxury of time, nor can society afford for Departments to miss targets and return unspent monies to Treasury.  Voters will be watching how the state performs over the next few months and rendering their verdict in the ballot box in 2024.

Issued by COSATU

For further information contact:

Matthew Parks
Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687