South Africa

WESTERN CAPE

Maynier unveils R224bn budget, says province is ready for spread of Coronavirus

Maynier unveils R224bn budget, says province is ready for spread of Coronavirus
Finance and Economic Opportunities Minister David Maynier said there is money available in key departments to help fight a resurgence of coronavirus in the province. (Photo: Flickr / Democratic Alliance)

The Western Cape is not going to skimp on essential services in a province that is battling with crime. Aside from the R1bn that will go towards the province’s safety plan, the largest part of the provincial budget will be spent on social services.

David Maynier delivered his maiden provincial budget speech in the Western Cape legislature on Tuesday 10 March 2020. The Western Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities announced the provincial treasury would spend R224-billion over the next three years, with much of the money being spent on essential services such as health, education and social development. 

Maynier’s speech focused on safety, health and curbing spending in the province. This is in line with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech on 26 February. Mboweni was in attendance. Maynier said he was “honoured and touched that Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni is here”. 

Maynier announced that the province would spend R224-billion over the next three years, emphasising that his was “a budget for you, all of you, in the Western Cape”. 

But he was quick to point out that the provincial treasury had been put on notice by Mboweni and his team at National Treasury that difficult decisions could have to be taken in terms of cuts to provincial budgets. Any proposed budget cuts could have meant compromises on service delivery such as health, education and social development in the province – but this, Maynier said, had been avoided. 

The province has five key objectives with the budget, including protecting spending on education, health and social development; preparing for a cleaner, greener energy future; supporting the priorities of the Provincial Strategic Plan; and holding the line on investment in new and existing infrastructure assets. 

Nomi Nkondlo, the opposition ANC’s shadow MEC for finance and economic opportunities, told Daily Maverick that while the party welcomes Maynier’s stance that funding on essential services won’t be cut, she questioned whether there had been any public consultation. 

Nkondlo said the budget was not pro-poor, as despite hearing that there will be boots on the ground in areas affected by what she called “stubborn crime”, there was no mention of how there would be “deliberately placed investment in these areas”. 

Nkondlo said that while the provincial government often had clean audits, the ANC would like to see this on the ground with service delivery. 

“Too little information is given about the elusive ‘10 crime-ridden areas’ that will receive attention – without any detail of where these are, while the need for many more extra schools and assistance to the township economy is too thin.

“The DA budget is still mostly directed at the elite, big business and tourists. The province can do more with real solutions than playing around with long-term figures and funding. People want to know what will happen this year and over the next few months. This budget lacks that kind of information,” Nkondlo said later in a statement. 

GOOD member of the provincial legislature Brett Herron said the speech lacked detail, especially when it came to education. 

“Fixing our education system, so that no child is denied access to a school, must be a provincial priority,” he said.

“Following their own cuts to teacher salary budgets a few months ago, we enter this next budget cycle with a shortage of schools and teachers. This is a crisis for the future of our province and a failure of this government to meet its constitutional obligations.

“I welcome the acknowledgement that spatial transformation requires improved mobility and access to better-located housing. But the DA has a pathetic track record of tackling spatial transformation. They are entering their 12th year in provincial government without having delivered a single inner-city housing opportunity. 

“To achieve spatial transformation this provincial government will have to identify well-located public land that can be used for the purposes of integrated, higher-density housing. There is no sign that this government has the appetite to do this.” 

This was after Maynier said, “We know that too many people, like many of you, do not have your own home, live far away from where you work, and travel is often too unsafe and too expensive, and so our fourth strategic priority is to promote mobility and spatial transformation in the Western Cape” – but that is a three-year priority. 

Touching on the possible spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the Western Cape, Maynier said the province was ready to deal with this. At the moment, there are no confirmed cases in the Western Cape. 

“Our provincial health department has a plan and is working closely with the National Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. Should anybody test positive for the virus in our province, our provincial department is prepared to respond.”

Thus far, South Africa has seven confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with six in KwaZulu-Natal and one case in Gauteng. 

“We at provincial treasury have made provision for unanticipated events and we stand ready to support the health department should the coronavirus reach the Western Cape,” said Maynier. DM

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