A disappointing 2019 budget speech

President Cyril Ramaphosa shares a light moment with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during Mbowenis 2019 Budget speech during the plenary of the National Assembly on Wednesday. Elmond Jiyane GCIS

I believe that the nation as a whole is very disappointed by this week’s budget speech given by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. In just about every aspect he failed to hit the nail on the head. He fell short in what he plans to do and what not to do.

The biggest part of the budget is the social grants which is a bottomless pit with no indication that it is unsustainable in even the medium term. The grants to South Africans in need must be in some way linked to creating work in some fashion; of getting some return on the investment in our poor. Even if 10% of the social grant went to the recipients in the form of some productive activity it would be a start. It might just lead to some jobs being created which heretofore did not exist.

The massive education bill is giving the taxpayer and the South Africa a very poor return on investment, for the hundreds of billions spent the education department is flooding the market with functionally innumerate and illiterate “graduates”. In the main they are well versed in the use of their cellphones but in the work place not of much value. There are exceptions of course but they are not the norm. The budget did not address the need to get the education system back on track and on a par with the countries with which we must compete, the Indians, Chinese and South Asians. We are not in the same league as them. More emphasis should have been placed on streaming students into technical and trade avenues where they are more in tune with the needs of the country and in which they are far more likely to find employment. Nothing was said in this regard. There is a limit to the economy’s need for more “soft” high school and college graduates.

Our economy has been ravished by years of ANC mismanagement and theft. State Owned Enterprises are in their death throws and sucking the fiscus dry. The Minister just added more gasoline to the funeral pyres without any indication that he has a massive fire extinguisher in his pocket. Bloated management with dysfunctional bureaucrats, in the main political appointees and jobs for pals, should have been put on notice that the people paying these redundant and non-functional miscreants, the Minister and us the taxpayers, would put them to a skills and function audit and if found to be fat cats on the payroll then they will be fired.

The Minister made absolutely no mention of mechanisms being put in place to retrieve the vast amounts of money which have been pilfered from the budgets of the various levels of state machinery. It seems the present ANC government is prepared to seemingly write off the billions stolen. Many of those involved are still sitting in Parliament! As a tax payer and loyal South African I am not prepared to make any concessions to the criminals who are hiding or in plain public view, and who have money which has been stolen/embezzled. They must be hunted like rats and their ill-gotten gains frozen and returned to the state coffers. This should be easier to accomplish that to get municipalities to cough up what they owe.

No, despite the faint praise for this maiden budget, the Minister has lacked a determined vision and I do not believe that the election should have played any roll in this. This is the National Budget and not an ANC presentation.

Peter Baker is a veterinarian based in Johannesburg. He is also the co-founder of South Africa’s National Book Town in Richmond Northern Cape.