Civic society calls for a human rights-centred budget

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The Budget Justice Coalition has called for a national budget centred around human rights. The coalition, consisting of various civil rights organisations such as Equal Education, Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign, aims to build people’s understanding and participation in the planning of the government’s budgeting process.

Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, is expected to deliver his medium-term budget policy statement in Parliament at the end of this month. The coalition expects that a budget will be presented that is focussed on austerity which would mean less money directed at socio-economic upliftment.

Human rights informing decisions

The Budget Justice Coalition wants a seat at the table when the government is drawing up its budget. It wants human rights at the centre of decision making and the voice of the ordinary citizen to be reflected in the budget.

A member of the coalition Busi Sibeko explains: “Challenging the status quo of inequality, poverty, unemployment, and violence requires expansionary fiscal policies. Ones that are human rights-based, ones that are environmentally progressive and requires policies that are gender transformative. Realising human rights shouldn’t be considered a by-product of economic growth, it should be the centre of economic growth. This of course needs to take into consideration state capacity, corruption, and so forth. “

Figures from Stats SA revealed that 2.2 million South Africans lost their jobs in the second quarter of 2020:

Budget expectations

The coalition says it expects next week’s medium-term budget policy statement to be geared at austerity, ways to reduce the government’s debt, and in turn that will mean less money for basic services, like education and health.

The coalition’s Daniel McClaren explains the possible knock-on effect of this.

“Infrastructure development is not happening so the infrastructure remains poor, a possibly black contractor won’t get a job, you will have workers laid off and those workers’ children remain going to a poorly equipped school and it creates intergenerational poverty .”

Living wage

Sibeko says among others a human rights-centered budget will consider a living wage, greener economy, and issues of mental health.

“ Our goal is for universal basic income for all and extension of caregiver and other grants but our vision is that will be living wage in future. Food security, how to implement it, and this is what government must deal with and this is what human rights budget must do.”