Thanks for saying that, Deputy Chairperson, because I was going to draw members' attention to exactly that. It's in the ATC. I am tempted to say that there is therefore nothing left for me to say. Everybody has obviously read and memorised the ATC and can now regurgitate it. So, what's the point of me saying anything?
Of course, the norm is that I should speak, so I will, because that's the rule.
Firstly, comrades and friends, I want to say that it is in the ATC, as the Deputy Chairperson has pointed out, so I will just cover the key points in it.
The first thing I want to say, Minister, is that, I think we welcome the candour, the openness, the frankness of your input. We are very grateful for it, because many Ministers of Finance in a similar situation in other countries would seek to gloss over the contradictions and the challenges. They would seek to spin. You don't, and I think that is most welcome. I think it is not just the opposition parties who - for their own purposes - eulogise you for that; so too do most of us in the majority party.
Secondly, we think that ... we understand fully that it is in the February annual Budgets that the Ministers of Finance, in detail, set out the tax, the expenditure, the projections for the next three years, and so on and so on ... and the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement is just a broad framework. I think you are correct, Minister, to draw attention to the understandable confusion in the public mind and in the minds of even some MPs about the relationship between the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and the Budget.
We think it's correct. We don't have to think it's correct. It is your right as a Minister to say that we possibly need to review the relationship between the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and the Budget. What's wrong with that? We've had it since 1997. We are on the pathfinders globally of this idea of a Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, and the Minister is certainly within his rights to ask whether we shouldn't review it.
But I think what we should be careful about is seeking in some or other way ... not that the Minister is necessarily doing this, but he'll speak for himself in whatever forum he finds it appropriate to do so ... it's not appropriate - in my view and the view of the majority in Parliament, not just the two committees - that we dispense with the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. It's crucially important, not least for the very markets whose confidence the Minister, government and Parliament are seeking to secure. We need to have some sort of sense of where the Budget is likely to go, not least because Parliament would otherwise not be able to effectively and rigorously exercise its oversight.
So, yes, let's have a debate about the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and its relationship to the Budget. Let's, in fact, communicate to the public exactly what this relationship is.
In so far as anybody is suggesting that we forego it and that it has no value and so on, I think that is not something ... I can't speak for the whole Parliament, but I would imagine the Parliament itself would be loathed to dispense with it, not least because not less than a year ago, over a one-and-a-half-year period, we reviewed the Money Bills and Related Matters Act, and no one but no one in civil society or in this Parliament raised that issue.
Thirdly, I think it's correct: The Minister is in a very invidious position. You have to carry with you a wide range of stakeholders and secure some degree of consensus on where we go. I think it's more difficult this time around with a Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement than any other Minister has faced.
So, when people demanded more concrete information even with a Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement ... And they are right: This Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, in my view ... certainly since the ones that I have looked at carefully ... and I'm sure chairperson Dikeledi Mahlangu has because we are in these roles as chairs of committees for our sins.
You know, we have been looking at this carefully and it is true to say that this Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement provides less
concrete detail than other Medium-Term Budget Policy Statements. But I don't want to level that at the Minister, alone. He has to carry his fellow Ministers, civil society actors, political parties out there, the unions, and so on, with him, and I think that might have hindered him from going further. So yes, we accept it.
The opposition parties have raised it, but that's not going as far as other Medium-Term Budget Policy Statements have, but there are specific circumstances for that. It is better to get consensus than to shoot ahead and then find that you don't have support for your proposal.
Now, Minister, I want to draw attention to a few things. The one that ... let me now say something that will please your heart and your mind. This is straight up your alley. This came up before you emerged as our Minister. So, sometimes we are more on the same page than you might think! It's to do with Prof Jannie Rossouw. He has done a lot of work about the amount of money we will save if, as Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, Chairpersons of Houses, Deputy Chairpersons, Speakers, executive committee members, we bought cars manufactured ... well, even if they are assembled here in South Africa ... and how much of the money goes back into the economy ... Straight up your alley. He does it scientifically. It's not driven
by some ideological view. Well, there's ideology underpinning it but, you know ...
And we've written ...
Chairperson, I really want to draw your attention to this because this is setting a very bad precedent. We discussed it last week. I am struggling to find this thing. We were looking at it only yesterday! Ah, here we are! Let me literally read this, Minister, because this is straight up your alley, I'm sure.
In a previous Fiscal Framework Report it was noted ... and we quote from a previous report:
The committee expresses it serious concern that, although the committee chairperson wrote to The Presidency on 15 November 2018 regarding the fiscal cliff study group's proposal that members of the executive and government officials buy cars manufactured in South Africa for official use and, following up on this, including with the President's parliamentary councillor about 10 days before the Budget, there has been no reply.
The committee - this is last week, Minister, Chairperson - expresses its criticism of the Presidency for its failure to reply, and requests the committee chairperson to insist of a response from The Presidency as soon as possible. It was agreed that, because it is a legacy issue, it's only fair that - although I'm not chairing the Standing Committee on Finance now - it is my responsibility as the chair of that time.
So, I spoke to the Parliamentary councillor yesterday, and I spoke to him today. I didn't just write. Over a period of three years I have spoken to the parliamentary councillor at least six times. I have spoken to senior officials in the Presidency. I have lobbied your colleagues - Ministers - and asked why we don't buy Toyota Fortuners, for example, you know, and so on and so on. The Ministers I speak to ... obviously I knew which Ministers to go to who would be empathetic. They said, yes, you are right, it has been raised, and so on.
So, Minister, I don't know what's in the ministerial handbook, nor do we. If it's not there, something should be discussed about this.
In any case, Parliament is entitled to an answer from The Presidency. If we don't get than answer, Chairperson, then we need
to engage with you and the Speaker. Then we will have to call the President to answer, directly, because the staff are not replying. Or, Mr Rossouw should go to court. The Presidency refuses to reply to Parliament.
So I really think this is an unprecedented issue and we need the powers that be in our House and the House on the other side to actually make a decision on this. We need a reply. This is Parliament. The President is not above Parliament. I have no doubt. I can surmise what his views are on this matter. I think he'll be very empathetic, and I'm sure he's not even aware of the point. But, the next time I bump into him, I'm going to raise it directly with him because I think Parliament should not be treated like this. It's three years now almost since we first contacted the Presidency on that issue.
Then on the pensioners, Minister, we are not populists. But they came here from Msunduzi, Pietermaritzburg. I didn't mobilise them. They came here. For three years in a row now, right? And they came and they presented their case in IsiZulu. We've been raising this about simultaneous interpreting. Let's discuss it off line. But the fact is they say they need a national minimum wage. We say, of course, morally, even the Minister ... we have to say "even the
Minister" because, you know, it's hard on money. But still, I'm sure, even the Minister empathises, right?
But, hey, we can't take it to a national minimum wage overnight. In any case, it's a trade off. It was translated into IsiZulu, right? So, they knew full on what we were saying. We said to them, look, the very issues that are ... [Inaudible.] ... national insurance affects you the most, as pensioners and the poor. If you talk about free basic education, it affects you. If you talk about welfare grants, it has been balanced against all of that.
But what I'm saying, Minister, is we are not populists. We largely empathise with where you are. We think though that the answers to the problems ... even we agree ... [Inaudible.] ... is not only the answers that National Treasury provides. And we are still stuck with a National Treasury that thinks that it and only it has all and every answer. That's not the approach. There are options that we can have.
And like never before, we must depoliticise the Budget now. We are in a crisis situation, right? And we should really forget some of our party politics. Really. We need to work together, whatever our differences. Our country ... We need to work with civil society,
with the private sector, with the trade unions, and we need to move fast on this. We need the same goodwill we had immediately after Mr Mandela became President, and that 1994, 1996 ... [Inaudible.]
And Chairperson, you and the House Chair have a crucial role to play in this regard. Thank you very much to all of you.
Question put: That the Report be adopted.
Declaration of vote: