Hon Chairperson, Deputy President, chairpersons of the two committees Mr Mufamadi and Mr Sogoni, I say thank you very much to the committees for their contributions and their debates, and congratulate the hon Mfulo on her maiden speech. We will get there. Don't worry about the opposition too much. [Interjections.]
The test of whether we are getting to terms with the levels of crisis we have around the globe - and, indeed, with many of the challenges we face as the South African economy - is whether we have a proper grip on the key issues that confront us. And the test is whether the opposition has a different point of view to advance in a logical, evidence-based way, and whether they have a case to persuade us that their point of view is substantially different and, more importantly, better than what the ANC government has had to offer. On many of these counts, regrettably, the debate before us unfortunately falls very short.
Let me remind all of us what the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement's key pillars were. The first, as was pointed out by the hon Koornhof and the hon Swart, is that we were practising and using prudent, countercyclical fiscal approaches in order to continue undertaking medium-term fiscal consolidation, on the one hand, and supporting growth in whatever way we can within the limits of our fiscal environment, on the other. We must remember that we still have real growth of just below 3% in the fiscal framework that we have put forward.
In the MTBPS, we said very clearly that the global economy is slowing down, recovery from a deep recession takes several years, the European situation does not inspire confidence and, as the hon Koornhof reminded us, the second biggest economy in Europe, France, was downgraded yesterday by Moody's. All this means that we are still confronted with a very negative global environment from which we are not decoupled or disconnected.
The test, again, for our opposition colleagues is: do they have a different view on this? Do they have something substantial to offer in terms of how we can work our way out of the grip that we find ourselves in as the globe, let alone as South Africa? The second point we made is that economic growth in South Africa has slowed to just 2,5%. Now, apart from bemoaning the fact that we have slow growth, do we have any substantial proposals from the opposition which say: If you follow this path, you will definitely get 5%. There is nothing on the table at the moment, either in the committee or in this forum. [Interjections.]
The third point is that revenue collection is expected to be ... and howling is not going to be as effective as presenting a logical case. Right? [Interjections.] You've had your say; give me my say now. [Interjections.]
Revenue collection is expected to be R5 billion less this year than the February estimate. Do they think they can come to a better figure if they were taking over this government at this point in time? [Interjections.] That's hardly likely. [Interjections.]
Then we said that strong measures are being taken to ensure value for money in public spending, including more effective controls over personnel expenditure. This, we grant, is work in progress, which is going to take us a few years to get on top of. But, again, do they have concrete, specific ideas of how we could do this better, apart from shouting affirmative action and cadre deployment? Can we do a little better than that, and come up with substantial proposals that can make a difference? The hon James seems to think he has some. I will engage with him later with regard to them. [Interjections.] At least, he is a worthwhile person to engage with.
The next point is that we have again put every effort into finding savings, eliminating waste and reprioritising spending towards key social and development objectives. Over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period R40 billion in spending has been reprioritised. Regrettably, some of my own colleagues in the ANC are mixing these three categories.
With regard to reprioritisation: I don't think I can actually fully spend my R100 million on Item A. I think I can take R20 million of that amount, and put it into a different programme where I can spend it more effectively and make a meaningful impact in terms of either service delivery, job creation, or whatever the priority is that I have at a particular point in time. That is reprioritisation.
Underspending is where I hold onto the money. I say I will spend all of the R100 million, but it is very evident that by the middle of the year I had spent 10%, by three quarters into the year I had spent 20%, and that the chances of spending 100% towards the end of the year are absolutely nonexistent. And, so we say to you: Give us the money; we can use it better elsewhere.
The third option is where there is a high level of integrity and honesty. You've been given the R100 million, you recognise that things are not moving as they should, and you say, "Look, take this money back and give it to some other priority in government because I am unable to actually fully justify holding onto this money."
That is savings, reprioritisation and underspending. I think it is very important that we understand that each of them are very necessary processes in terms of getting to the bottom of spending our monies in the right kind of way.
Then we went on to say in the MTBPS that further shifts in the composition of expenditure are being made towards infrastructure investment, economic competitiveness, education and health care. We have said repeatedly - and I think all sides of the House agree - that, certainly, in education there is enough money. We need better quality outcomes. And there is any number of proposals that government is looking at, including the issues that my colleague Minister Motshekga is looking at in order to improve the outcomes.
On health care, and in addition to challenges that we face currently, we have said that we have a 14-year plan in terms of delivering the National Health Insurance, NHI. We have 10 districts where piloting is actually going to occur and that process, under Minister Motsoaledi's stewardship, is already beginning to take root. I am sure in the next year or so we will begin to see the results.
On infrastructure investment, there is any amount of rand that is going into investment in social infrastructure, and both from within the fiscus and mainly outside the fiscus there is investment in economic infrastructure. We still have a R25 billion package for economic competitiveness, and I think I gave you the figures that since 2010 some R7 billion have been allocated by the Department of Trade and Industry, steering a committee of other departments as well, in this particular area. Ultimately, it is the private sector that must come to the party and ensure that they use those funds in order to deliver what they need to in terms of competitiveness.
We said that rigorous procurement reforms would be undertaken, and pretty soon I will be able to report on some of these issues as well. We also pointed out that at the presidential summit, commitments were made in terms of strengthening municipal finances, investing in urban infrastructure, ensuring that the Industrial Policy Action Plan is extended even further, and accelerating the creation of youth employment opportunities. These are amongst other things what we need to do.
Against that framework, let us see what the hon members have had to contribute. We have had affirmations from the ruling party in terms of each of these areas, but, clearly, in this new-found alliance in the making between Cope and the DA, I think the hon Koornhof can certainly give the hon Harris very useful lessons about how to understand the economy, appreciate the fact that we have a tight fiscal ship that we are running, and that we are indeed on the right path, looked at from any particular perspective.
To politic around populist policies or that Treasury running out of ideas on jobs is precisely that. It is politicking, and I have said this repeatedly to the hon Harris but I'm not quite getting through just yet: When he has more substantial ideas, let him come along for his cup of tea at the Treasury and we will engage with him.
The hon Koornhof makes some very good points on the situation in Europe and the US fiscal cliff. He is certainly right that there is more optimistic potential, if you like, in terms of the fiscal cliff being resolved, and at least that part of the risk facing the globe is being handled in a different way.
The hon Tshabalala correctly points out that we require - and have been trying to reflect as government - an integrated approach to growth, poverty and job creation. All of the various plans are beginning to connect with each other under the overall umbrella of the National Development Plan, in order to get our implementation right on these matters. Her emphasis on industrialisation is absolutely accurate. She said that her generation - the younger generation - is very worried that this generation doesn't pass on too much debt to them, but she said that she will take care of it. I think she is absolutely right about the hon Harris' grandstanding, but I am sure that she and the hon Harris can sort some of that out. The hon Ntapane says that we need to look at issues of unauthorised and irregular expenditure, and so on. Again, I want to make the appeal, something which I have said before, that Parliament can increasingly play a very powerful role in this regard. I am not sure whether they are adequately doing that.
The hon Groenewald and I have known each other for quite a while, and for him to talk about who is facing reality frontally, and who is in denial is a bit of mischief making that I think he knows he is engaging in. Hon Groenewald, we are not in a state of denial. We have been frank with this country and we have been frank with this House. On every single occasion that we have had the opportunity - not just as the Ministry of Finance but as government - we have said that these are the challenges we face, this is what we are doing well, this is what we are not doing well and these are challenges that we had better overcome if we want to put ourselves on a much better path. Certainly, if my child is out of step in any march, anywhere, I'm not going to pretend that the child is indeed in step.
The hon Luyenge has raised very important points and said that we need to come back with regard to what government is actually doing on employment, on moderation of compensation and on contingency plans if the situations change. I think that is the reality that all of us live in and that we need to become a lot more mindful of. As I said to you, even during the MTBPS, there are shocks a day, if not shocks every few hours in the global system at the moment, and we are going to require calm nerves but also distinct agility if we are going to deal with the situation in front of us. Above all, we are going to require a strong sense of common purpose and not politic on the major issues that affect 50 million people in South Africa.
I'm not sure if the hon Swart refers to himself as the older or the younger Swart, but let's give him the title of younger Swart at the moment. Steve Swart, thank you for your support and although you have raised the issue of debt stock, let me still assure you that our debt is certainly under control, but we all need to keep a watchful eye on this, because the wrong kind of debt stock can certainly impose itself upon us if we are not very careful.
The older Swart makes some very useful contributions as usual. I think he can also share with his colleague on how to become constructive. But thank you for pointing out where we could find another R40 billion. We will do the arithmetic with you one day soon to see whether it actually adds up to R40 billion or not.
The hon Ross certainly correctly points out that we need faster growth, that some of the issues confronting us at the moment are not going to be extremely helpful, and that the issue of business confidence is something that we need to be concerned about. This is a concern not just of government. If you remember at the end of the MTBPS, I said that all of us should take responsibility for not talking down our country. Distinguish between the country and the government, right? Take collective responsibility. [Applause.] We cannot keep pointing fingers at the government and say that it is the sole guardian of what happens to this country. If you want to protect this country's reputation and if you want to enhance its credibility, let us find a way, hon members, for taking collective responsibility for that important function. [Interjections.] [Applause.]
You correctly point out that ...