THE NEW SOUTH AFRICAN BUDGET
NENE’S NOBLE ATTEMPT
Let’s face it: our latterday finance ministers Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan and now Nhlanhla Nene are rather clever. But in spite of the statutory “challenging but hopeful” refrain, even these smart chaps cannot spin gold from straw. (If you don’t know the fairy tale, google it and see what life lessons one can glean from old, old stories).
Unpack it as one might, Minister Nene’s budget speech to the nation is more of the same: Keep our fiscal policies progressive and make responsible choices. Surprise! Surprise!
…………………………………or PROP-UP RHETORIC?
Oh yes, there was some token support for small business enterprises and some tax relief, but the bottom line remains: “Responsible choices are required!” One agrees, and of course alcoholic beverages and cigarettes should be heavily taxed. But no amount of ducking and diving can hide the fact that the budget deficit is under pressure, and thus the government’s ability to deal with pressing economic problems is restricted. Basic services are sadly lacking. Unemployment figures are high. Also, the very (small) businesses that are supposedly benefiting are the ones most crippled by road tolls and fuel levy demands. (We now pay R2.55 tax on every litre of petrol.) Silently and stealthily the disposable income of the poor is placed under even more pressure.
Growth in the economy is further retarded by the reluctance of foreign investors to embark on initiatives that are restricted by property rights, corruption and unreliable electricity supplies. (Nobody seems to mind the tax levy for skills development, workman’s compensation and customs and excise taxes.)
BURDENS ON THE BASKET
Fiscal health is a slippery eel that is impossible to grip in slimy water. A fiscus is Latin for a basket or purse. Fiscal pertains to the public treasury; the fisc is the state revenue. A basket full of state dosh to fund the many things the ruling party is responsible for can become empty, you know. It is not a bottomless cup of coffee. It is not the Biblical widow’s urn. A huge civil service has to be paid from this basket. (Not to mention the many boards of enquiry into corruption charges against civil servants ….the court cases and ‘Cadillacs’.)
Government’s ‘commitment to positive retirement outcomes’ encourages personal accumulation of capital, (to the tune of untaxed savings of R500 000) which will reduce dependency on the basket. But, underlying this apparently sound (if pie-in-the sky for most of us) advice is the message:”You’re on your own! Don’t expect government to take care of you!” This is not in itself a bad message, but it is difficult to keep one’s eyes on that distant goal when clean water and effective education remain out of one’s reach. It sort-of dooms us (South Africans) into remaining dependent; into remaining financial basket cases.
Author: Suenel Bruwer Holloway
Suenel Bruwer Holloway is a playwright, poet, speech writer, translator and editor as well as guest writer. She specializes in satirical social commentary, the arts, education, book reviews and three course picnics. She comes from a long line of hat wearers.
Suenel is available for guest posts and can be contacted at the e-mail address provided.