The People's Budget: MTBPS 2019

Nov. 20, 2019 (3 weeks, 1 day ago)

"As things stand in this country, there's 10% of the population that currently gets 90% of the money in this country. That means that 90% of the population are living in poverty" - Noxolo of Amandla.mobi*

A brief look into some of the sentiments around the MTBPS. Listen below or read the transcript** below.

** transcript modified

Transcript:

On the 30th of October 2019 Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni delivered the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) which outlines the country’s economic priorities over the next three years as prepared by the National Treasury.

The first mid-term budget policy statement was published on the 2nd of December 1997. Under Section 28 of the Public Finance Management Act 1999, the Minister of Finance is obliged to table multi-year budget projections for revenue, expenditure and key macro-economic projections on an annual basis.

The MTBPS presentation is considered to be one of the most formative events in Parliament’s calendar as it provides a summary of government’s economic policy (fiscal) goals and objectives, as well as projections for the country’s economy and public finances.

In a nutshell, this year’s MTBPS highlighted some of the key challenges faced by the economy, which include stagnant growth, escalating debt, the large public sector wage bill, and the fiscal risk posed by the state-owned entities.

Various groupings and stakeholders such as trade unions, farmers, pensioners and economists have criticised the MTBPS for proposing public expenditure cuts across the board as they believe that will stifle the country’s economic growth prospects in the short to medium-term.

During the MTBPS public hearings, the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) denounced the MTBPS saying that the proposed move to effect austerity measures will have adverse outcomes on economic growth, employment and service delivery, and called for a budget that prioritizes intersectional feminist budgeting.

In their submission, BJC highlighted that in a number of countries austerity has resulted in higher levels of unemployment and inequality. This is alarming because as it stands South Africa is considered to be one of the most unequal societies in the world and a push to full-blown austerity will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

Here’s what Busi Sibeko of the BJC had to say:

“Hi my name is Busi Sibeko, and I’m here from the Institute for Economic Justice, but I’m here representing the Budget Justice Coalition. Which is a coalition of organizations. So we are here today for a submission which is based on the idea of feminism, and the reason why wave specifically chosen feminist is because we consider ourselves to be looking at the budget through a non-binary ad intersectional lens which considers the lived experience of many.

South Africa was one of first countries to introduce Gender-Responsive Budgeting. Yet we have failed to deliver on this commitment since 1995 essentially. So this is why we are calling for feminist budgeting. Also, evidence has shown that austerity budgets, which is what South Africa has been implementing since 2014/15, expenditure cuts have shown to have negative impacts on women and children and other vulnerable groups. So we are calling for fiscal stimulus, we are calling for the revision of the public sector wage bill and saying that they need to look at the equity of it as opposed to the size of it. We are also looking at proposing that other revenue measures be considered; such as taxing more of the capital gains of the wealthy and so forth and other innovative ways of raising revenue. We are also calling for a real debt-management plan for the state owned enterprises and that a feminist budgeting lens needs to really be applied such that we can ensure that women, children, and people of different genders are really considered into the budget and that the budget serves the majority as opposed to a few. “

In October last year the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) urged the government to put an end to its austerity measures as the results will have a direct impact on the citizens’ human rights. This was later supported by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which called for “more inclusive economic policies and a review of fiscal policy to enable the government to meet its constitutional and international human rights obligations”, which South Africa agreed to be bound by in 2015.

International experience reveals that it is the most poor and marginalized that suffer the brunt of austerity. In the case of South Africa this will be most felt by Black and coloured women, unemployed youth and pensioners.

Representing one of the most marginalized groups in society at the MTBPS, the Pietermaritzburg Pensioners Forum made their fourth appearance in Parliament requesting an increase in their grant in the form of a 13th cheque. Their campaign on Amandla.mobi remains one of the most signed petitions on the site.

This is what they had to say:

“It’s not our first time coming here. It’s actually our fourth and we are still asking for the same thing and that is for the government to increase our pension. Initially we has requested that our pension be increased every year. As we head into the festive season, once again our plea is that at the minimum they give us an increase for December.

We hope that one day our government will remember that we voted for them to occupy those seats and will look back. If government doesn’t know where to get the money they should take it from the Ministers and give to the pensioners. So that pensioners can also live. We also want to live and raise our kids.

We are here to ask that our pension be increased. We were really happy when heard that our grant had been increased by R100 when Malusi Gigaba was Minister of Finance. Then Tito Mboweni increased it by R80. This amount already does not make much of a difference because we have children that we feed. When the children go to school we are left with nothing. When you go buy with that R1700 you leave it all at the store.”

On the bright side, it is worth taking note of the fact that the MTBPS does not reflect the government’s final budget. Instead, it is meant to “open up the debate before the actual Budget is finalised" . The mini-budget is currently being processed by Parliament in a prescribed manner as outlined in the Money Bills Act. Members of the public still have a chance to submit their comments on the MTBPS until the 22nd of November 2019.

Read our mini-budget process timeline to get a picture of what is to come here.

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A note of correction from Amandla.Mobi

The first sentence in the quote mentions a statistic which is based on a href="https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/SAHRC%20Equality%20Report%202017_18.pdf"> South African Human Rights Commission Report Equality Report 2017/2018

However, the word 'money' was used instead of the word 'wealth' for which we apologise. Furthermore, a recent Stats SA report states the top 10% have 67% of the wealth.

The second sentence in the quote is completely incorrect. 90% of the population are not living in poverty. As per this href="https://africacheck.org/factsheets/factsheet-south-africas-official-poverty-numbers/">Africa Check articlepoverty is measured in different ways

We would like to apologise for this incorrect statement. amandla.mobi takes accuracy very seriously and has worked to put in place training and internal processes to make sure we use reliable sources of information.

To hold decision-makers accountable we must have our facts straight, and we recognise the responsibility we have to our members, partners and the media to make sure our work is of the highest quality.



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