By David van Vuuren, DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
Finance MEC Elzabe Rockman’s adjustment budget tabled today fails to address the dire socio-economic problems the people of the Free State have to contend with.
The province finds itself in the grip of a severe water crisis, a disastrous drought, rampant unemployment and a close to negative provincial economic growth outlook of 0.3%, adjusted downwards from 1.5% last year. This is a recipe for disaster and will affect the poorest of the poor most severely.
Only an additional R10 million was appropriated for drought relief efforts in addition to the R30 million already appropriated in the current financial year. The DA contends that the R40 million set aside will not stretch far enough to bring real relief to subsistence, emerging and commercial farmers in the province.
The adjustment budget failed to make any provision for addressing the causes of the water crisis which is as result of a lack of infrastructure maintenance and expansion and a non-existent provincial water management strategy.
It is a real shame that MEC Rockman chose to allocate an additional R27 million to Premier Ace Magashule’s office instead of towards programmes to alleviate the impact of the water crisis and the drought.
The provincial salary wage bill recorded a R748 million shortfall while an adjustment of only R238 million was made available to address this. The DA has long maintained that the provincial salary wage bill is extremely bloated. The total salary wage budget for the current financial year is R17,5 billion. This is a massive drain on the province’s finances. Considering how much taxpayers pay public officials and the poor level of service delivery from government, the people of the Free state can see no value for money here. Should this trend continue the Free State will reach a point in time where the salary wage bill would literally suck the province dry, leaving very little money for service delivery.
Once again the adjustment budget has failed to make substantial additional funding available for both the Departments of Health and Education, who despite Provincial Treasury’s interventions, continue to find themselves in financial distress, unable to meet its service delivery requirements.
The DA takes cognisance of the fact that the current economic outlook places limits on government’s ability to access more funding, however, that is no excuse. Government needs to revaluate its funding priorities to address the most critical areas, this adjustment was the perfect opportunity to do so, unfortunately MEC Rockman failed to take this opportunity.
In these difficult times ways must be found to be able to do more with less, that is what a responsible government does, that is how the DA governs in the Western Cape. Unfortunately the ANC-led government’s priorities, under Premier Magashule, lie with luxury, self-enrichment and grandiose communist-style projects like Operation Hlasela, which continues to have no benefit to the majority of the people of the Free State.