Organised labour has largely expressed disappointment with finance minister Enoch Godongwane’s maiden budget speech despite it being commended as balanced by political parties and economists.
Saftu and Cosatu lamented that Godongwana had failed to toughen Treasury’s hand on corporate tax despite the growing need for social expenditure, including for the funding of the social relief of distress (SRD) grant and the basic income grant (BIG) envisaged by labour and civil society.
Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said while the federation welcomed the extension of the R350 SRD grant to next year, it was disappointed by imposed austerity measures and the absence of policy interventions to enhance labour-absorbing capacity of the economy.
“Overall we are disappointed because all promises were repeated. He extended the youth wage subsidy by 50%. This thing has been there for 10 years and it has not worked. Government is running a corporate welfare system here and we are adamant that BIG must be adopted,” Pamla said.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said failure to increase corporate tax would make it impossible to fund the SRD or BIG despite announced increases in revenue.
“The DA guys and corporates are happy with the budget. It is their speech. None of the issues we hoped for have been included,” Vavi said.
Wits University economist Prof Jannie Rossouw commended Godongwana on his stance that the government would not plan permanent expenditure on the back of short-term increases in commodity prices.
“My assessment is that the country is in an extremely difficult economic position and the minister is doing his best to ensure that there is sustainability and that we don’t go through a fiscal crisis,” Rossouw said.