2017 – 2020 MTBPS and the 2016 Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Expenditure
Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Honourable Premier and Cabinet Colleagues
Honourable Leader of the Official Opposition
Honourable Members of the WCPP
Officials of the WCG
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the opportunity to introduce the Second Reading of the 2016 Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Expenditure in this house. At the outset I should like to congratulate my colleague, Minister Meyer, on his clear, constructive presentation of this matter last Thursday and to thank him for his firm management of the finances of the Western Cape.
As the various provinces have unpacked their own adjusted estimates over the last week or so it has been instructive to read the recurring sober theme of poor economic times, significant cuts to provincial funding by the National Government and consequent threats to service delivery performed by the provinces and their municipalities. By contrast, the media reports that the Premier of the North West Province was investigating the purchase of a jet for his and other Cabinet members’ use came as a bit of a shock and was roundly criticised by many observers. Clearly the example set by the Presidency was being taken seriously by at least one Premier!
Speaker, South Africans as people and as a nation have shown themselves able to survive and build through difficult and dangerous times. Perhaps that is why it has become a requirement for South Africans of all ages and backgrounds to have tucked away in their survival kit a good sense of humour. How else do we come close to dealing with the Prophet of Doom and Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s claim that as Jesus Christ was sent to save the people, he is here to save South Africa – both in the same week? At one level, funny – at another extremely dangerous.
Our economy, too, has shown its resilience over many years. It managed to stumble through the economic fantasies of Apartheid including skewed priorities, distorted education and suppressed employment and labour practices.
It has recovered from cycles of drought and other weather induced setbacks as well as the impact of fluctuating commodity prices, including the so-called precious metals upon which the country’s economy was too dependent for too many years and the production of which resulted in so many social evils.
But, Speaker, even this tough economy and the strength of the South African people who live in it and with it have wavered under the combined impact of the financial crash of 2008, the resultant uncertainty and the loss of trust in traditional financial instruments. The impact of the reduction in world trade and the fall of commodity demand and prices was always going to be severe on an economy such as ours. And we have certainly felt its effects.
In his speech of last week Minister Meyer also set out a range of international events which have aggravated the overall economic uncertainty and have not helped the situation – from David Cameron’s lack of political judgment which resulted in the Brexit vote and a change of leadership in the UK to the emergence of Donald Trump as the President – elect of the USA.
However, Speaker, as resilient as our economy has traditionally been, it has been dealt body blows by a series of local – largely politically driven – events. I will not dwell on these in any detail, but it is necessary that I remind this house of what some of these were, as follows:
- The R500 billion game of musical chairs played by the President with the position of Minister of Finance
- The ill-conceived changes to visa requirements which significantly damaged the tourist industry
- The striking of unaffordable remuneration agreements in government service.
- The threatened prosecution of the Minister of Finance
- On - going horror stories about many State Owned Enterprises and other State Entities including SAA, Prasa, Eskom, Transnet and the Post Office. The mismanagement, fraud, cronyism and leakages of state funds and accusations of fraud have reached farcical proportions. The fact that many of these entities are meant to provide the underpinnings of our economy simply makes the situation more dangerous as instead of bolstering our economy they have simply sucked up large chunks of the fiscus – so large that I wonder if we will ever know how much.
Needless to say, the uncertainty arising from the events of Saturday to Monday in the St George’s Hotel near Pretoria are hardly designed to bring confidence to South Africans as a whole, the economy and the international community - as much as a constructively managed change in political leadership would be a step in the right direction.
To make matters worse, Speaker, these events have dominated the debate and distracted national government, government departments and government agencies from addressing the underlying problems of jobs, trade and economic growth.
How can the Minister of Finance keep his eye on the ball when he is served with a summons in the midst of finalising a national budget? The naiveté or malice or sheer incompetence is simply breathtaking.
Speaker, some failures pass without a trace and leave no evidence. A failed economy in a developing country leaves many traceable fossils – decaying infrastructure, unemployed citizens, corrupted systems and loss of faith and confidence.
Here in the Western Cape, under the astute leadership of the Premier, Helen Zille, Cabinet has kept focus and developed solutions to the economic challenges. We have built schools, hospitals and clinics. We have maintained and expanded our road network. At the entrepreneurial level alone 50 000 jobs have been created. We have tackled the problem of the imbalance created between government employment and service delivery by introducing cost of employment upper limits and sticking to them.
The impact of the drought in parts of the Province remains a concern. Funds have been made available for water security and for related water shortage challenges. Given the importance of agriculture to the economy of the Western Cape and to the lives of many of our citizens we have not limited ourselves to financial support but have ensured that the Western Cape has been proactive in launching the Western Cape Climate Change Response Framework. We want to be in a position to handle all climate change issues better in future years.
Speaker, it is a truism that the household or business or government which manages its finances prudently even in the good times will be better able to cope with economically difficult times. The Western Cape is a shining example of this truism. Our audit record speaks for itself about transparent financial management, having workable plans and setting and meeting targets. This Medium Term Budget Policy Statement and Adjusted estimates of Provincial Expenditure is indeed about Hard Truths and Hard Policy Choices.
It was Abe Lincoln who said - Be sure you put your feet in the right place; then stand firm.
The Western Cape Government believes it has its feet in the right place and intends to stand firm.
I thank you.