Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget was described as a balancing act in which he tried to navigate a difficult path. There was mixed reaction from political parties, trade unions and civil society in response.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the fact that there was a 2.6% increase in government expenditure made him comfortable.
He said Gordhan tried his best to manage the deficit from 5.2% to 4.7%. “It is impossible to argue for a bigger deficit,” said Vavi.
He bemoaned underspending in infrastructure development. “The fact that R260bn was allocated and only R178bn spent, which is 68%, talks to the levels of paralysis in government.”
Vavi said Gordhan’s statements on job creation were all over the place and not focused.
Deputy shadow minister of finance for the DA, David Ross, told The New Age the party welcomed several presentations, including the reduction in budget deficit, income tax relief and revenue collection. “The increase in revenue collection is a reflection of competency within the South African Revenue Services,” Ross said. “We really appreciate and congratulate the government on a job well done.”
Ross called on the government to improve the youth subsidy and land reform budget allocations. He said the land issue was a critical element that needed to be addressed urgently.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the budget was predictable given what President Jacob Zuma had said in his state of the nation address regarding the infrastructure projects.
He said he doubted that South Africa would achieve the economic growth of 3.6% in 2013 and 4.2% in 2014 as predicted by Gordhan.
Bongani Msomi, secretary-general of the United Democratic Movement, gave Gordhan’s budget the green light but called on the government to eliminate any form of corruption in all the three spheres. “The budget speech was very positive but the high level of corruption might thwart the implementation of job-creation projects in the structures of the government.”
Cope said government must lead the way and prove it can deal with the new budget. “They must show they can spend taxpayers’ money properly,” Cope MP Nic Koornhof said.
The African People’s Convention (APC) welcomed an allocation for water and electricity in informal settlements announced in the government’s budget.
“Indeed, the provision of housing in this country is very slow, therefore providing water and electricity is a step in a right direction,” APC secretary Patrick Sindane said.
In response, AfriForum said the finance minister’s budget speech missed an opportunity by retaining toll fees for Gauteng highways, even though there are more cost-effective methods of recovery to finance these roads.
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, said: “The decision to exempt taxis from toll fees while motorists have to pay reduces ordinary motorists to the milk cows of the new tolling system.”
The Black Sash also welcomed the budget, with its advocacy programme manager Nkosikhulule Nyembezi saying it was an encouraging budget.
“We hope spending on infrastructure will go a long way in improving the situation on the ground. We had hoped the minister would talk about food security and revise the grocery items.”