Budget 2023: ‘Concern over rising inequality as high debt, energy crisis and corruption impact on public responsibilities’
Government's debt and its impact on public spending is a concern for the Budget Justice Coalition, which says it hopes the finance minister will not use the social budget to fund the crises.
In anticipation of the 2023 budget today, spokesperson Phemelo Khaas said the largest expenditure item in the 2022 budget and outlined in the medium term budget policy statement last year was debt-service costs at R333bn per year on average and growing more than 12% per year on average.
“Resources are being redistributed away from public spending to government creditors. The coalition is concerned about the choices on how to raise and allocate spending towards debt-service costs is affecting the kinds of public services delivered. A more appropriate mix is required given the catastrophic levels of poverty and inequality in South Africa.”
While sharing South Africans' concern about the energy crisis and welcoming the promise to permanently tackle load-shedding, the coalition cautioned the allocation of funds and reduction in spending to address Eskom's R400bn debt must not be implemented to the detriment of other rights within the constitution.
“Rights to education, healthcare, basic services and social assistance cannot be compromised or deferred.”
The coalition called for social support to be increased to above the poverty line, and for clear implementation of a mechanism of basic income support for the most vulnerable, alluded to in the recent state of the nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“More than a quarter of the population (including around 9-million working-age adults and more than 7-million children) are living below the food poverty line of R663 a month. This limits the ability of adults to engage in the economy meaningfully, and limits the development of children, compromising the future economy. Both the child support grant (R480 per month) and the social relief of distress grant (R350 per month) are substantially below the food poverty line.”
Amid threats of greylisting, the coalition called on the finance ministry and National Treasury to speed up tabling important legislation such as the Public Procurement Bill in 2023.
“The time has come to deliver on the promise to address endemic corruption which serves to only steal much-needed funds from the public purse.
“The 2023 budget is much anticipated as the country is eager to get relief from the rising cost of living, unemployment, persistent energy crisis, lack of service delivery and crime and corruption that continues to steal from the nation. We hope the government rises to the occasion, and tables a budget that is people-centred and reflective of human rights.”
Civic organisations who are part of the Budget Justice Coalition include the Alternative Information and Development Centre), the Children’s Institute at UCT, Corruption Watch, Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre, the Institute for Economic Justice, Oxfam South Africa, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, the Public Service Accountability Monitor, the Rural Health Advocacy Project, Section27, Ilifa Labantwana, Treatment Action Campaign, Centre for Child Law, 350.org, Open Secrets, Social Policy Institute, Public Affairs Research Institute, Amandla.mobi and Black Sash.