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Government spends more on servicing its debt than on tertiary education

Wits University Picture: Gallo Images
Wits University Picture: Gallo Images

This analysis was conducted by Stats SA.

"Total government revenue‚ which includes taxes and other forms of income‚ amounted to R1‚35 trillion in 2015/16. Immediately you can see that‚ with total spending of R1‚52 trillion‚ the South African government spent more than it earned‚" the entity noted.

"...Government spent more money on servicing its debt than it did on items such as housing‚ police‚ tertiary education and hospital services. Almost R129 billion was spent on public debt payments in 2015/16."

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Stats SA quantified how the contribution of debt payments has crept up: In 2011/12‚ it was 7‚2%‚ rising in 2012/13 (7‚4%)‚ 2013/14 (7‚8%) and 2014/15 (8‚4%). In 2015/16 it rose slightly to 8‚5%.

"General services" accounted for a quarter of government spending in 2015/16. Within this‚ debt payments accounted for 9% of the total and executive‚ legislative and financial services accounted for 12%. The latter includes the funding of general government services provided by institutions such as the SA Revenue Service‚ the National Treasury‚ the Auditor-General of South Africa‚ the Financial and Fiscal Commission‚ parliament‚ and the various legislatures.

"Not surprisingly‚ big priorities for government are education and social protection‚ which includes the payment of social grants‚" said Stats SA. "Together these two items contributed 32% of total spending."

Spending expressed in economic terms‚ in order to provide an indication of how much money was paid towards salaries and goods and services‚ showed an amount of R1‚37 trillion after removing capital expenditure from the R1‚52 trillion in 2015/16.

"Compensation of employees contributed 40‚6% of the R1‚37 trillion‚ the largest expenditure item in economic terms. The second largest item was purchases of goods and services‚ contributing 21‚9%‚" said Stats SA.

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