MALUSI GIGABA Finance minister did not present a ‘favourable’ mid-term budget policy on Wednesday, but South Africans will be relieved that the controversial nuclear programme has not been budgeted for, for now.
This follows weeks of speculations that President JG Zuma is hard at work pushing the deal with the Russians and the appointment of David Mahlobo to the energy post, will fast track the process.
“Over the next five years‚ South Africa will not be able to afford nuclear energy because the economy is growing too slowly,” says Gigaba.
“We can’t afford it‚ we have excess electricity. The budget can’t afford it and the country can’t afford it.”
He said the economy may require nuclear energy at some stage‚ but emphasised that SA could not currently afford it.
Although this has been bone of contention, another headache is that an imminent Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards. This does not augur well for economy and contributes to political uncertainty, he said.
R11billion has been set aside for University students for accommodation expansion in the next three years’.
The department of higher education was aiming to provide 300‚ 000 new beds at public universities and vocational education training colleges by 2026.
At the same time the budget of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme would be increased to R40-billion by 2020 to assist more than 450‚000 students from poor households to access tertiary education.
Gigaba said the total budget for higher education was one of the fastest growing line items of the national budget‚ and would continue to rise from R77-billion this year to R97-billion in 2020/21.
“This includes the provision of financial assistance to subsidise the education of more than 450‚000 students every year. But clearly more needs to be done‚” said Gigaba.
He said the commission of inquiry into fees for higher education – the Fees Commission — had delivered its final report to President Jacob Zuma and its recommendations would soon be considered for implementation.
On social grants‚ the number of beneficiaries was expected to grow from more than 17 million this year‚ to 23.5 million recipients by 2030.
Spending on social grants was due to rise from R251-billion next year to R286-billion by 2020.
Gigaba has also allocated R500-million to the department of water and sanitation for the construction of an emergency water supply scheme in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.
The money would also be used to expand the capacity of the Thukela Goedertrouw transfer scheme in KwaZulu Natal.
The department will also reprioritise funds for bucket eradication which has seen the replacement of 2‚044 systems in informal settlements.
Public health expenditure‚ which is driven by population growth‚ is expected to grow due an ageing population and other “cost pressures”.
Gigaba said 43% of non-interest spending to provinces was mainly for health‚ education and social services.
R350-billion has been earmarked for Eskom and South African Airways and the Post Office‚ will share R8.5-billion.