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The Appropriation Bill came before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Appropriations, Mr Charel de Beer, stated that the significance of the Bill is to underscore the fact that “we need transformation to ensure growth and we need growth to transform”.

There are principles that should guide our agenda for transformation and inclusive growth, he said. “The test of our programmes must be that they do create jobs, eliminate poverty and narrow the inequality gap. And transformation must be mass-based, benefiting the most disadvantaged South Africans through the creation of new assets, capabilities and opportunities to build people’s livelihoods. And to mobilise both private and public investment in social and economic infrastructure, new technologies and new activities that will help build a modern and diversified economy.”

The total appropriation which amounts to R767bn in 2017/18 reflects the policy priorities contained in the Government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which sets the National Development Plan’s (NDP’s) priorities from 2014 to 2019, he said. “National departments’ objectives and spending must be aligned with the objectives of the NDP’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework premised on 14 priority outcomes identified in the NDP’s Vision 2030.”

Among other priorities, the NDP envisages a health service that will reduce our country’s disease burden and a strong public health system and R187.4bn has been set aside in this current Appropriation Bill to address that, he said.

The NDP’s aim for an inclusive and responsive social system and spending on this priority is set to rise from R180.1bn in 2017/18 to R209.1bn by 2019/20, he said.

The need for a skilled and capable workforce to support inclusive growth has led to the allocation of R77.5bn to high-quality education and training, he said. “A total of 615 000 university students will receive NSFA (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) loans and bursaries over the next three years. The scheme has received additional allocations of R7.7bn for the 2016 academic year. Transfers to NSFAS are expected to rise from R11.4bn in 2016/17 to R13.9bn in 2019/20.”

There is also an increased spending in economic affairs functions to support the NDP’s objectives of economic growth and employment. But financial imbalances are building up the public sector, he said. “The public sector wage bill has increasingly crowded out other areas of expenditure, limiting government’s ability to improve the composition of spending in favour of capital budgets. This is compounded by debt service costs, which will amount to R162bn in 2017/18.”

As Parliament, in particular this House as well as its Committees, we must intensify our oversight so as to ensure accountability and the value for the money spent, good governance and sound financial management, he said. 

In his objection of the budget allocation for The Presidency, Mr Mntomuhle Khawula declared that there is no credible leader of the people who can continue to vote for what is happening in The Presidency which presided over the Marikana killings, of a President who breached the Constitution, a President who removed a well performing Finance Minister: an act that dragged the country to a junk status. “The President and the Cabinet have let South Africans down. The money that this department appropriates should uplift the poor and used in essential service delivery. It is not something that the President and his family can do what they like with it,” he said. 

The Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Seiso Mohai, responded that The Presidency’s budget is at the centre of critical service delivery initiatives that are encapsulated in the Medium Term Strategic Framework of the National Development Plan. “The Presidency’s budget is at the heart of the radical economic transformation agenda of our country. The Presidency needs a human capital and resources to monitor and evaluate these priorities that are at the heart of the National Development Plan.”

The Presidency also has an increased role in continental and international affairs and as a country we depend on this strategic budget to evaluate and monitor our fight against the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, he said. “To reject this budget is to reject the National Development Plan and the economic challenges facing this country.”  

By Abel Mputing

27 June 2017