FINANCE Minister Pravin Gordhan has defended his budget speech against criticism by unions, saying he had announced a "pro-poor" budget.
Last week Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the speech was like "old wine in new bottles" and threatened a general strike if the government did not take steps to reduce unemployment and ban labour brokers.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) described the budget as a "declaration of war to workers and the poor" and slammed Gordhan for his "cheap manipulation of language".
But speaking yesterday during a meeting of African finance ministers and central bank governors in Cape Town, Gordhan said: "The major part of our budget goes to the poor."
He played down the criticism, saying "people come from different theoretical positions".
"The important thing is to hear each other. If economic circumstances change we will change our policies, but for now we need certainty."
Meanwhile, Gordhan has called on finance ministers and central bank governors to plot a new course for Africa.
"Africa has the potential to become the solution to the world's problems. The financial crisis is still pretty much there. It has left its impact on all of us," he said.
"Coordinated action has become the new way of working and the challenge for us in Africa is to take our economic future into our own hands."