Opposition parties in Parliament say the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement fell short of their expectations. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivered his speech in the National Assembly which convened at the Cape Town City Hall on Wednesday.
Among others, he announced that government will step in to fix Eskom’s debt and that the R350 COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant would be extended to the end of March 2024.
GOOD’s MP Brett Herron says the government will have to make the social relief grant a permanent fixture of the annual budget. Herron says it is unrealistic for the government to think that it can ever withdraw the grant.
“Realistically government must accept no way that grant can ever be withdrawn, to take away the relief from their poverty of over 9 million individuals… the government must use this as the basis of the basic income grant which is a section 27 right in our country.”
The country’s ever-increasing debt is a huge source of concern to some parties.
Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu say at R4.7 trillion, it is fast getting out of control.
Shivambu says the biggest crisis the country faces currently, is debt servicing. “Paying debt R355 bn in a context where the economy is not growing, where you have not resolved energy and electricity crisis in particular. How to grow the economy if we don’t have a clear dependable plan for how to resolve the electricity crisis? So you can grow economy and then be able to expand revenue base and not drowning in paying off debt services.”
Wessels says this is a huge concern. “Government debt is out of control. Talking about R4.7 trillion in government debt. The service cost is out of control. The fiscus can’t afford it. A lot of debt of failed entities is absorbed by the state and that is unsustainable the fiscus position that we are now in.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson on Finance Dion George and COPE MP Willie Madisha shared the sentiment.
George says Godongwana is not taking the country forward. “The government said it would reduce debt but a massive increase to take over Eskom debt will push it up. We are going the wrong way, don’t support taking Eskom’s debt on the national balance sheet for people to pay for. There can be another model.”
MTBPS 2022 | Political parties react to Godongwana’s budget speech
While no details were provided on the repayment of Eskom’s debt – this did not go down well with most parties. United Democratic Movement (UDM) MP Nqaba Kwankwa and National Freedom Party MP Sheik Emam say it’s very concerning.