The country must invest in education, says Manuel

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

Education remains government's top priority, receiving nearly 18percent of this year's R605billion budget, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said in his medium-term budget policy statement yesterday.

Welfare and social security gets the next biggest slice of 15percent, followed by 10,4percent for health and 9,7percent for policing. Defence ranks under "other" in eighth place out of the 10 slices the budget is divided into. Five percent of the budget has been allocated to the military.

The budget adjustment Manuel was forced to make by striking civil servants, upping their wages amounted to less than departments were partying away, he said.

Higher wages won by public servants through their strike pushed government's budget up by R1,9billion. But that can be compensated for by getting national departments to cut their "travel, entertainment, marketing, catering, events and consultants" expenses by R2,3billion.

Budget adjustments Manuel tabled yesterday included:

l R744million to support the restructuring of South African Airways,

l R654million for expenditure resulting from fires, floods and other adverse weather conditions, and

l R400million for the prevention and treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis.