Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan briefed senior leaders at NEDLAC on the recent Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS ) where he outlined its expenditure plans.
Nedlac Executive Director, Alistair Smith said the meeting was fruitful and positive, particularly given government’s increased social spending path. “It is clear that government is committed to maintaining a balance between increased social spending and a fairly adverse economic outlook,” Smith said. “Over the medium term the intention is not to increase the expenditure overall but to look at how to reprioritise within existing spending plans in such a way that we don’t compromise on social spending and the efforts to support continued growth.”
Government is also fully committed to a radical reduction of wasteful expenditure and to dealing with corruption to make spending more effective. “The parties broadly welcomed the frank discussion,” said Smith. Business presented a written submission, and labour and community representatives intend to the same at the next briefing.
“Going forward we will continue to monitor these conversations and hopefully these will become issues at the Public Finance and Monetary Policy Chamber so that when the Minister comes again we will have narrowed the agenda on these issues. This is an opportunity for us to engage in a more detailed and constructive way.”
Smith said the Minister is expected back for another briefing before the next MTBPS in February 2013. The last Public Finance and Monetary briefing and engagement of NEDLAC’s Executive Council on the National Budget took place on March 2 2012. At that briefing, constituencies were pleased with the central priority that the 2012 Budget placed on the expanded infrastructure programme but raised concerns at government’s capacity to implement the programme effectively. Business viewed the 2012 National Budget as credible, broadly balanced and confidence building.
Labour welcomed the economic support measures proposed in the budget as an important step towards growing South Africa’s manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Community welcomed, among others, the allocation towards education, early childhood development as well as electrification of high-density areas.
Parties acknowledged the effort by Government to reduce the impact of the Gauteng e-tolling programme. Business however said that it was regrettable that the matter had now become “non-negotiable”, while labour and community representatives expressed their opposition to the programme.