Second Reading Appropriation Bill Debate
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
- Honourable Deputy Speaker
- Honourable Premier
- Cabinet colleagues and Leader of the Opposition
- Honourable members of the Western Cape Parliament
My Cabinet colleague, Minister Meyer, is to be congratulated on tabling a responsible, sustainable budget for the 2016 MTEF period. Despite the economic circumstances he has been able to announce a budget focused on growth. In Minister Meyer’s words the budget is about:
- Inclusive growth.
- Sustainable growth.
- Smart growth.
An outstanding example of this smart growth was the announcement yesterday by the Premier of the roll out of the first 50 of 384 Wi-Fi hotspots which will bring affordable internet access to thousands of poorer residents, increasing essential information availability and, in many instances, reducing the need to travel.
This Western Cape Government is indeed an example of a capable government within a national state which is increasingly unable to become the capable state set out in its own National Development Plan.
Deputy Speaker, in this regard, it would be remiss of me not to make some reference to the national level political actions which are so destructive of South Africa’s progress. When I addressed this House on 23 February I referred to the bizarre actions of the President in reducing the value of South Africa by an estimated R500 billion by playing a game of musical chairs with the key position of Minister of Finance. One would think that that sort of damage would result in a major shift in strategy and the roll out of a comprehensive plan of damage control.
But no – not in the thinking of the ANC – led national government.
Just when Minister Gordhan had tried to settle the nerves of the national and international finance and investor community he, too, was thrown to the wolves through the very public, badly managed and even worse-timed fight about SARS.
By then, it would have been understandable if the voters of this country, watching on in disbelief, had thought that nothing worse could happen to rock their already fragile financial world. But again no! This damaging state of affairs was in turn trumped by the revelations of yesterday confirming that a single ultra-wealthy foreign family believed it was in a position to offer the post of Minister of Finance to another ANC politician.
Deputy Speaker, is this what the national government means when it claims to be striving to meet the ideal of a capable state? No! This is the action of an increasingly chaotic state whose integrity is being steadily hi-jacked by outside – usually financial – interests which enrich a small group of party loyalists.
In business terms, the shareholders of South Africa – ordinary citizens – are having their interests sold out from under them. As a consequence too many face a bleaker future than they could ever have imagined and not all are in a position to relocate to the only province which represents the reality of a capable state. But Speaker, the time of passive shareholders is rapidly disappearing. Shareholder activism is the order of the new day. Any businessperson will tell you that. In the same way South Africa’s shareholders – the voting public – will use the next shareholders’ meeting – the upcoming local government elections – to record their rejection of the current Board, including its chairman, President Zuma.
When in this House I previously asked what the ANC has become a byword for, I used the comparison of FIFA which had for many become a byword for corruption. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the value of a background in the ANC has decreased so much that Tokyo Sexwale had to withdraw ignominiously at the last minute from the contest to choose the next President of FIFA. A few years ago, his time as a Premier and a Cabinet Minister would have guaranteed him at least a serious chance if not automatic election. In 2016 it did not bring him even SAFA’s vote. Oh! How the mighty have fallen. I have no doubt that the very serious allegations now emerging from FIFA about South Africa’s Soccer World Cup will do even more damage.
So Deputy Speaker, this is the fragile economic and political climate in which Minister Meyer tabled his responsible budget in support of the Premier’s SOPA vision for the next three years.
Deputy Speaker, as Minister of Transport and Public Works, it would be remiss of me not to highlight a particular result of the above political and economic turmoil which has the potential to impact negatively on the lives of many of the people in who live in this province. I refer to the increasing instability within Transnet and Prasa, both of which are key to our residents having access to improved commuter services and to our efforts to get heavy freight off our road network and back onto rail – rail which has been demonstrated throughout the world as being the most efficient and cost – effective mover of freight.
In a very disturbing move, the international rating agency, Moody, has placed all ratings relating to Transnet on review for a downgrade. With Transnet in the middle of implementing its seven year market demand strategy involving a planned R300 billion investment in ports and rail, the review will lengthen this seven year implementation to ten years and increase the cost to between R340 and R380 billion.
The Business Day of yesterday reported a respected credit analyst at a leading financial institution as saying about this development:
It is not about Transnet, but it’s about the government.
And so, Deputy Speaker, there is an economic price to pay for political game – playing. Unfortunately the people who pay this price are usually ordinary citizens. Fortunately, these ordinary citizens all have a vote and will increasingly begin to vote on the basis of their day to day experience and not on the basis of some historical obligation.
Deputy Speaker, Minister Meyer’s budget also gives effect to the commitment of the Western Cape Government to inclusive growth. The budget therefore highlights the role of this government as a catalyst across the various municipalities which have to be able to provide supportive physical structures and facilities to improve the lives of their residents and communities. To this end an amount of R26.7 billion is budgeted for such infrastructure in local and district municipalities. I will expand on the details of some of these initiatives during my budget vote on 30 March. Suffice it to emphasise today that these initiatives cover a wide range of road and communication improvements, education, health and social development facilities as well as other government offices.
The distribution of this investment is obviously directed by a range of current socio-economic considerations, policies and strategies aimed at improving the life chances of people in the Western Cape.
In closing, Deputy Speaker, I should like to echo Minister Meyer’s appreciation of the way in which all of us have worked together in very difficult economic times to contribute to workable, affordable plans - plans which can give people hope in a future for them and their children. Better Together is the way to go.