South Africa and the world focussed on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as he endeavoured, through the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, to juggle and balance competing priorities to at the very least keep our economic aspirations afloat.
The Minister was frank and honest about our current reality and it is abundantly clear that the road ahead will not be easy; some tough decisions moving forward await.
The threat of South Africa being downgraded to junk status by credit rating agencies on one hand, and National Treasury revising this year’s growth forecast from 0,9% to 0,5% on the other hand demonstrates that we are indeed in queer straits.
Unemployment stubbornly sits at 26%; translating into 9 million jobless people. The drought has compounded our food security dilemma. The #FeesMustFall Movement continues to challenge the status quo of our higher education sector.
Global uncertainty from the situation in the Middle East to the tumultuous election campaign in the United States are the clearest indications yet that South Africa’s efforts to turn things around will not be easy.
The realities we face and the uncertainty we continue to experience dictate that all South Africans need to step up and join hands in promoting and protecting our prospects. Minister Gordhan cannot do it alone.
What is of grave concern to the IFP is South Africa’s increasing debt which currently stands at just over R2 trillion and currently generates a debt repayment of R147 billion per year, and the worry is warranted that should the country suffer another credit ratings downgrade, the interest payment will increase and that additional debt service fee will have to be found from the fiscus.
South Africa is lauded worldwide for having a progressive and inclusive constitution and sound state and financial institutions which compare favourably on most scales of assessment; but what we need urgently is to build and inculcate patriotism as a guiding institution in the hearts, minds and actions of those entrusted with the duty to lead our country. Through personal and patriotic conviction we can root out corruption, fraud and the pervasive abuse of the state machinery for personal gain.
Corrupt and dishonest leadership and an absence of patriotism are systematic cancers which cripple our economy much to the detriment of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the poor whose lives are a daily struggle to make ends meet.
The Minister has yet again pointed the direction the country needs to take and all of us must for the sake of the national interest rise above petty political divisions and put the country first. Ideological differences and debates are a key feature of democracy but that should not put on the back foot the key aspect of uniting around the national interest; we are in this mess together and only through working together will we be able to get out of it to see another day and improve the lives of the people.
It will prove pointless to praise the minister for a job well done on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement and then carry on with our daily lives and everyday politicking as if the realities before us do not exist.
The MTBPS was broadly speaking a significant moment in the country’s endeavours towards economic recovery. It now requires pragmatic action and political will to implement.
The IFP believes that the right things were said, and confidence was restored but the real work starts now by setting into motion the noble plans of the MTBPS. This is a national priority requiring the ANC to listen to other voices and for the opposition to criticise constructively with sound and practical alternatives.
Parliament must not continue operating like an extension of the executive. Transgressions of the PFMA and related national treasury regulations must be punished.
Only through a consistent application of the PFMA (and other applicable laws) in all its fundamental and material aspects, with a particular and religious focus on consequence management as a deterrent we will see a strict adherence and compliance to due process.
In this regard a better and effective understanding should be required of officials and the law enforcement agencies to attain watertight and synchronised approaches to enforcement and prosecution.
For our economy to rise from the ashes, it requires both sides of the parliamentary aisle to work together to turn things around.
This national duty requires a new national discipline and sobriety in engagement for parliament to effectively hold the executive to account without fear, favour or compromise. Spending must moving forward place needs before wants.
It is in South Africa’s best interests to exploit the opportunities and weaknesses of the rapid changes in the global economy by harnessing and strengthening our scientific, technological and innovative capabilities; and this requires a total overhaul and transformation of the education system to develop skills, knowledge and expertise required to sustainably grow the economy and generate jobs thus expanding the tax base to meet the demands of our competing development priorities.
What is needed is a leadership which is equal to the tasks at hand, driven by the conviction to serve and committed to do the right things at right time for the right reasons for no other benefit other than the development of the people and growing our economy to create jobs, decrease inequality and eradicate poverty.
We can ill- afford to sacrifice our economy any further on the altar of vendettas to settle political scores especially when the stakes and risks are so high for our people and collective future. This means we must avoid repeating “Nenegate” with a “Gordhangate”
Mkhuleko Hlengwa, MP
IFP Spokesperson on Finance
071 111 0539