Parliament, Thursday, 23 April 2020 – The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA), Mr Sfiso Buthelezi, has expressed his appreciation for the social relief and economic support package of R500 billion announced by the President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, to deal with the extraordinary challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Buthelezi welcomes the economic and social stimulus package due to the major negative social and anticipated economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the unprecedented uncertainty of both domestic and global economic activities, and mostly the health and livelihoods of the entire population.

The response by the President and government in trying to protect the lives of South Africans is much applauded and citizens are urged to abide by the government’s regulations to avoid the uncontrollable spread of the disease.

“We appreciate the dedication, leadership and commitment that has been demonstrated by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize and other members of the executive, led by the President, in their efforts to flatten the curve,” he said while explaining that the biggest casualty of the disease will no doubt be the South African economy and its adverse impact on the poor.

There is an inevitable impact of Covid-19 on economic growth, government revenue, the inevitable increase in both the budget deficit and gross government debt as well as its overall impact on the level of unemployment, which is already stubbornly very high for the country.

Mr Buthelezi said the interventions made by the President, especially those related to the social relief and economic support package, will provide a safety net to the most vulnerable sections of society and said that measures such as these must be intensified if South Africans are to survive the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The economic support packages as announced by the President will provide a huge relief to small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) and these are the most vulnerable sectors of the economy yet when they operate optimally, they are key to the government’s unemployment, poverty and inequality reduction initiatives.

Mr Buthelezi welcomes the decision by the South African Reserve Bank of reducing the repo rate by 200 basis points (2%) in the past two months. This decision by the Reserve Bank will certainly ease financial conditions and improve the resilience of households and companies to the negative economic implications of Covid-19, while ensuring that households and companies have available funds to spend.

The government’s interventions directed at bringing social relief is highly welcomed, especially those directed at poor and marginalised communities. “What is of the utmost importance now is to ensure that these relief programmes reach their intended beneficiaries,” Mr Buthelezi said while condemning the unscrupulous behaviour of those involved in defrauding the beneficiaries of this much-needed relief.

“While it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that proper checks and balances are in place to avoid corruption and malfeasance, we also need the involvement of communities in speaking up and reporting this behaviour to the relevant authorities,” he said.

During this period, it has been noted that the National Treasury has relaxed some of the supply chain regulations related to the procurement of goods and services by the government to aid emergency procurement, and while Covid-19 has necessitated these types of decisions, Mr Buthelezi calls for careful monitoring of emergency procurement.

“All government departments and municipalities, which have been allocated additional funds for the provision of basic services, must strictly adhere to the regulations as set out by the national and provincial treasuries,” Mr Buthelezi said.

“Since the start of the lockdown, there have been various complaints against companies and businesses concerning excessive pricing. This is a blatant and unacceptable exploitation of vulnerable people,” said Mr Buthelezi, as he called on the Competition Commission to be decisive and apply the law quickly without fear or favour against the unacceptable escalation of prices, leading to the exploitation of our people.

“We need all sectors of society and all interest groups to cooperate and support government’s initiatives of dealing with this pandemic, while we all remain vigilant against the exploitation of our people by anyone using the Covid-19 crisis for their corrupt ends and unfair business practices.

“It is clear that a lot has changed since the Minister of Finance tabled his budget in February 2020, and there is no doubt that the assumptions and economic growth projections made in the February budget have now been hugely impacted by this pandemic. What is needed now is a focused and consolidated effort,” Mr Buthelezi said, as he called on the support of all South Africans, especially that of businesses, labour and civil society in the fight against Covid-19.

It must be acknowledged that the assumptions made in the February budget are unlikely to materialise said Mr Buthelezi, he therefore, called on all South Africans to support the government in implementing the reform agenda that will resuscitate and put the South African economy on a sustainable and inclusive growth path that benefits all South Africans, particularly the poor and finally put an end to what is potentially the biggest health disaster of our lifetime.


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