Thank you, Mr Speaker. The facts are as follows:
Firstly, we are appropriating an amount of just over a trillion rand, within which there is a real growth of 2%; that means, in addition to inflation.
Secondly, our debt service costs for this year should be about R99 billion. We have a contingency reserve of R4 billion and, therefore, a total appropriation of approximately R1,1 trillion.
Thirdly, let's establish very clearly for the record that the ANC has, for the last 19 years, led this country extremely well in terms of the fiscal management of this country, let alone its more general economic management. [Applause.]
There is no piece of fact that can be produced by anybody in South Africa which can accuse the ANC of being profligate, irresponsible and of not responding timeously to the events around us. [Interjections.]
We can't subject our public to the DA model of neo-liberalism and laissez faire, which they want to cast upon South Africa should they, by some very remarkable miracle, win the next or forthcoming elections. [Interjections.]
Let us be frank with the South African public ... [Interjections.] ... that what they are hearing from us is the first phase of the election battle, and what they are hearing from us and various speakers is a bit of fabrication, a bit of twisting of the facts, ... [Interjections.] ... a few quotations from Cicero and others, which help to reinforce the idea and communicate wrong messages to the South African public.
I have great regard for Mr Swart of the DA but I understand that he is in a party that has started its election campaign, and that hyperbole has to become an important part of that campaign. Firstly, somewhere along the line he says that we are going bankrupt. This country is nowhere near bankruptcy, so let's not bluff the South African public about that. [Applause.]
Secondly, he says that there is a remarkable increase in objections to budgets. Well, all one needs to do is put up one's hand to object, and getting closer to elections means that many more hands go up. So let's tell the public that that is exactly what we are doing. It's not as if we have discovered something new and remarkable in this regard.
Thirdly, I think it's very important that, notwithstanding the fact that we are engaged in elections, we communicate facts. Now, either we want to say that the warts are dominating all our faces - which is what the Public Service Commission or others would have pointed out as weaknesses in the state - but those weaknesses do not dominate the state. They are weaknesses. They are challenges. Those are the things that we need to overcome. Those are not the predominant features of the South African state. [Applause.] Let us not communicate the wrong things.
As many speakers have said, it is true that consultants are incorrectly used in some instances. Yet, we should remember that, under the category of consultants, there are engineers, project managers, planners, designers and all kinds of technicians. We actually can't use that category for everyone. Where consultants are used, let us as Parliament call those companies to Parliament. Let us ask them, after paying them a fee of 10, 20 or 30 million rand, whether in local or provincial government, why they can't give us proper annual financial statements which the Auditor-General finds acceptable. That's the role that parliamentary committees can actually play. We should hold those firms to account, not just departments and Ministers. Those firms are the recipients of taxpayers' money. So let's ask them, and I challenge this Assembly to engage in some of the right types of governance, so that we can even hold public entities that make money out of government - which is in fact taxpayers' money - to account for the monies that they actually receive.
Reference was made by Mr Swart to the Mining Consultative Forum that the Deputy President convened last Friday. It was a very constructive conversation that took place amongst all of the role-players, after the extremely hard work that had been done in the weeks preceding this.
As the opposition or as the ruling ANC, what we should be doing is congratulating the Deputy President for achieving this feat of bringing all the parties together. [Applause.] What we should be saying is that it is important for all role-players, as a matter of culture and convention, to sit around the table rather than shoot words at one another, or any other particular instrument if you want to call it that ... [Interjections.] ... and find a basis for consensus. Of course, if you are fighting elections it's understandably very hard to do that.
Reference was made to a Mr Sparrow and the attitude to the problem. The problem is the attitude of the DA in all of these debates ... [Interjections.] ... in that they cannot draw the distinction between national interest and party interest. [Interjections.] They cannot understand that there are times when you have to restrain yourself ... [Interjections.] ... and rise above your party interests in order to project a collective national interest. Hopefully, the ANC can teach that in time. [Applause.]
The hon Ramatlakane correctly mentions consultants again, and says that the monitoring of the Budget is important. Well, hon Ramatlakane is a member of a portfolio committee so he should monitor, talk to Ministers and departmental officials, say what he wants to say and bring about the changes through the system.
The hon Singh is obviously correct when he says that more planning needs to be done in various endeavours that we undertake, and I am sure that we listened carefully to what the Appropriations Committee had said, and we will make sure that we implement some of them.
He also says that tax must be used effectively. We have said this on many, many occasions, for many years, from this podium, but regrettably he is wrong when he talks about a welfare or a social welfare state as being distinct from a developmental state.
As the ANC we have said many times that we are not looking for a welfare state. We are looking for a state that is developmental in character in that it meaningfully changes the lives of people, and meaningfully changes ... hon Alberts ... and transforms this country from the apartheid image and edifice that it has to a very different democratic image in which all of its people feel that they are receiving the benefits of democracy. So let us resist the idea or its propagation that we are trying to create a welfare state in South Africa.
Of course, the hon Alberts is at variance with all of us. It seems that for him, self-determination, socialism and double speak - all of which were the words that we used to hear as activists in the 1970s and 1980s from a certain party and from a certain finger-wagging leader - are the words that he thinks are attractive and relevant at this point in time.
All that we can say with respect to the hon Alberts is that he really needs to bring himself into the 21st century and understand what democracy really means amongst us ... [Interjections.] ... and that the discourse needs to be changed.
The hon Gelderblom and hon Yengeni gave many examples of the gap between reality and the verbiage that we hear from my left. The reality of governance is that there is no perfection. The reality of governance is that you actually aren't able to show a 100% record anywhere. The reality of governance is that it is tough, and that it's hard to overcome one's DNA. With regard to the DNA in this case, the N is very important. [Laughter.] If the DNA is inclined towards serving particular constituencies then that's the way we go and we shouldn't deny that kind of DNA, as the two hon members have correctly pointed out.
The hon Swart correctly says that there are two important things that all of us need to focus our minds on. Indeed, the first is that we must create policy certainty in each of the environments in which we operate. Hopefully we can get to a stage where we, as a nation, can have that dialogue and ensure that we can speak with one voice in the interest of all 50 million people in South Africa.
Secondly, he makes an important point that, notwithstanding our fiscal constraints, we need to find ways of stimulating our economy, creating the right kind of inclusive growth and creating jobs for as many people as we can under very difficult circumstances. It's around those sorts of issues that I believe we should find the kind of consensus that we require to move South Africa to a very different point in our developmental trajectory.
Thank you very much to all the members and parties that have supported the Appropriation Bill. Regrettably, we don't have total consensus in this matter. [Applause.]
Bill read a first time.