‘Budget Should Focus On Jobs, Service Delivery’

The Free State should take stringent measures to ensure sharp cuts in unnecessary spending and direct more funds towards employment creation, improved service delivery and critical social spending, an economic expert said.

Central University of Technology (CUT) senior economics lecturer Mgcinazwe Zwane said this in an interview with The Weekly yesterday ahead of the presentation of the provincial Budget by Treasury MEC Elzabe Rockman at Gariep Dam on Tuesday at 2pm.

Zwane said naturally, what’s presented in the national budget should cascade to provincial budgets to ensure all proposed initiatives are undertaken and that they are well funded.

“Finance minister Tito Mboweni was quite clear on the need to cut unnecessary expenditure, particularly the blotted wage bill,” said Zwane in a telephone interview.

“That should be seen cascading to provinces and local government budgets. A lot of money is not being put to good use and that must change so that more money goes towards services. We need more sustainable jobs in the Free State and the provincial government should help by creating a more investor friendly environment,” he added

He noted the national budget was kind of biased towards metros and given that the Free State only has one such municipality, it means major changes have to be made to ensure the rest of the province benefits from the forthcoming budget.

“There have to be serious cuts to the wage bill because what we have now is not sustainable. We need to improve on social development because that is what our communities need. We currently have a huge labour force in government but very little work is done.

“The budget should address unemployment and improve service delivery. We don’t want EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme) jobs because those are temporary. We want long term jobs for our people,” he explained.

Zwane said money should not be unnecessarily spent on lunch meetings because it’s not really productive spending. He added a lot of money is spent on catering at those meetings yet it could be used for other things in the province and benefit more people.

“The youths are complaining that there are no jobs. We need to support them by creating opportunities for them. We need jobs that can take us for the next 10 years or more. Unemployment is very in the country, and the Free State in particular. That should be addressed,” he said.

According to the latest Quarterly Labour Force survey released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) for the last three months of 2018, South Africa has a labour force of about 22.7 million people, of which 16.5 million are employed

This leaves about 6.1 million people or 27.1 percent of the country’s labour force officially unemployed. The expanded unemployment rate, which includes those not actively looking for jobs or have given up, stands at 37 percent.

Unemployment in the Free State stands at 32.9 percent, the second highest in the country after the Eastern Cape with 36.1 percent. Mpumalanga is third with 32 percent.

The Free State has a total labour force of about 1.2 million people of which 806 000 are employed. This leaves about 396 000 people or 32.9 percent without jobs. The expanded unemployment rate for the province stands at 39.3 percent. About 50 percent of those unemployed in the province are youths.

The 2018 mid-year population estimates by Stats SA indicate that South Africa has a population of about 57.7 million people. Approximately 29.5 million or 51 percent of the population is female.

The Free State has about 2.95 million people.

In her budget, Rockman is expected to give details of spending and revenue collection plans for the 2019/20 financial year. These plans will be in line with what Premier Sefora Ntombela outlined in her State of the Province Address a week ago.

But most importantly, they should follow the thrust on national treasury on cost cutting, employment creation and a fair balance with social support.

Rockman is also expected to announce winners of the Budget Competition drawn from Grade 12 learners studying commercial subjects in school. The participants were asked to share their opinions on what would make an ideal budget for the province. The idea behind the project, according to the provincial treasury, is to improve economic literacy amongst local youths.

By: Martin Makoni