Comment on Northern Cape’s Budget

In response to the Northern Cape’s budget speech, the Democratic Alliance is pleased that the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, John Block, focused on infrastructure development. We are however concerned about the province’s lack of capacity to plan and implement infrastructure projects. At the same time, it must be noted that investment into public infrastructure alone won’t facilitate job-creating growth.    It is the state’s role to increase South Africa’s competitiveness through infrastructure development and we thus welcome the allocation of R5,557 billion towards building roads, hospitals, clinics, schools, agricultural infrastructure, and arts, culture and sporting facilities, as well as the allocation of R1,842 billion on infrastructure building and maintenance.   In a globalised economy, the state must ensure that the conditions exist for businesses to be internationally competitive. A key component of this is the provision of excellent infrastructure, including water, energy, technology, transport and roads, sewage systems and so forth, which creates a platform for growth.       We nonetheless have concerns regarding provincial government’s capacity to plan and implement infrastructure projects. We acknowledge the provincial departments partnering with National Treasury to provide technical assistance. However we are of opinion that this is a temporary move and that more should be done to attract and retain professionals in the Northern Cape.   At the same time, it must be said that infrastructure is only one aspect of the job-creation puzzle. This said, our constitution has devolved the most basic infrastructure provision to local government. Unfortunately, most local governments lack the capacity to do this job. The acknowledgement by Block that municipalities need to examine the balance between their operating budgets and capital budgets, and ensure they structure their operating budgets so as to generate the surpluses required to fund infrastructure, thus means little, as does his acknowledgment that provincial and national government needs to take these issues pertaining to municipalities seriously and act upon them. These will remain empty words unless the ANC’s commitment to the policy of cadre deployment, which prioritises political connections ahead of competence, is scrapped.   At the same time, it must be noted that sustainable job-creating growth is driven by the private sector, especially small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME’s). The job of the state is to create an environment that will attract and   retain investment, entrepreneurship and skills. This said, Block’s concession that many departments are still not effecting payment to their suppliers within thirty days from receipt of an invoice, is worrying.  We only hope that his commitment that action be taken against those who do not comply with the law, in line with the prescripts of financial misconduct, ring true.    Next, he has got to be serious about addressing corruption, which goes mostly unpunished. We hope his commitments in this regard are more than just hot air because unless we can end corruption, South Africa cannot be internationally competitive and attract job-creating investment.   Issued by Andrew Louw, MPL DA Northern Cape: Leader

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