Budget funds business as usual, with a glimmer of hope

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Leader in Mpumalanga

While welcoming the 2012/13 budget as delivered by Ms Yvonne Phosa yesterday, the DA believes that not enough was done to deliver on the promises of the premier, Mr David Mabuza during his 2012 State of the Province Address.

Notwithstanding a few exceptions, the budget can only be described as conservative, and while no major announcement was made, has followed funding trends of previous years.

MEC Phosa should have placed more emphasis on financial management support to failing departments, and through her department’s interventions, prevent hundreds of millions of rand being lost. We are further disappointed that MEC Phosa presented no clear plan for proper revenue collection and financial management in the province’s struggling local municipalities, and find the allocation of R8 million to do so in both instances, as too little too late.

While both President Zuma and Premier Mabuza cited infrastructure development as the key aspect of economic growth and job creation, the budget tabled by MEC Phosa did not adequately reflect this priority, and it waits to be seen if individual departments will prioritise it in departmental budgets. In addition, little indication was given as to how government intends reaching it job creation targets.

The failure by the MEC to state clear, if at all, government’s strategy to fighting corruption is cause for concern, with no dedicated funding for the establishment of the Mpumalanga Anti-Corruption Council, as mentioned by premier Mabuza.

Our greatest concern lies in the mere R20 million allocation to the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA) to set up a “special purpose vehicle for implementation of bulk water and sanitation infrastructure project”. Considering the hype with which Premier Mabuza announced that MEGA would be driving this initiative, it is unclear what should be achieved with R20 million. Unfortunately, considering the extent of crisis, residents of Mpumalanga can be sure that water quality and supply problems will persist for the foreseeable future.

However, on a positive note, we are pleased that the MEC heeded our call for increased health funding, allocating a total budget of over R7 billion to the department, with R108 million set aside to recruit and retain medical professionals and to reduce the vacancy rate.

So too, do we welcome the increased education budget which tops the allocation with its share of over R13 billion. Education is critical to the sustainability and economic future of our province, and every measure must now be taken to ensure that the people of Mpumalanga get value for money.

Most importantly, we welcome the MEC’s announcement of additional funding for the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), especially a conditional allocation of R50 million to revitalise four nature reserves in the province. While more funds will always be needed, this announcement is the first ever reflection of government’s commitment to conservation in Mpumalanga. The DA will closely monitor the implementation thereof.

The DA now eagerly awaits the Legislature Budgetary process, whereby each department will table their individual funding priorities.

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