EASTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL BUDGET THIS FRIDAY: THE FOUNDATION OF A GROWTH-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT IS A CLEAN, EFFICIENT ADMINISTRATION

The Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape expects the MEC for Finance, Phumulo Masualle, to announce this Friday (subs: 11 March) a provincial budget in the region of R53.7 billion, consisting of R44.120 billion (previous year R40.134 billion) in equitable share, conditional grants of R8.896 billion (previous year R7.453 billion)and own receipts in the region R600 million.

To create an environment that is conducive to creating jobs, reducing poverty and improving service delivery, every rand that this province receives must be efficiently spent. The foundation of a growth-friendly environment is clean, efficient government.

The MEC must spell out the steps that will be taken to deal with the projected exposure of the province of R3.5 billion which is due to over-expenditure in Health and Education. It is disgraceful that to date Education has underspent by R743 million and Health by R981 million on their conditional grants. We cannot afford to send this money back to National Treasury. We want to see and honest overview of where we are in the province financially.

The DA will be watching carefully to see what measures will be introduced to ensure Health and Education have sound budgets. Last year we rejected these budgets as unrealistic. Key to this is the province developing norms that ensure a balance between cost of employees and funds available for actual service delivery.

Education is the foundation of opportunity and our learners cannot continue to be prejudiced through poor management. Likewise, we want to see a greater emphasis on Primary Health Care in the budget so the pressure can be taken off our over burdened hospitals. We want to see a value- for-money, caring healthcare system that puts people first.

The DA expects the MEC to announce stringent measures that will prevent the estimated loss of over R2 billion annually to corruption, maladministration and over pricing. Tender reform must be prioritised. Non- core items such as hotels, conferences and excessive travel must be cut. This money can be better spent on promoting the province to create jobs, fixing our roads and improving our education- , and health infrastructure.

The MEC also needs to spell out the steps that are being taken to access the new Dedicated Roads Maintenance Fund that the DA has succeeded in achieving at National Level. This is now available to provinces. A sound roads network is the bedrock of our provincial economy. Roads unlock economic opportunity by connecting people and products more effectively.

Our rural economy is very dependent on a sound infrastructure and one also expects the MEC to announce steps that are conducive to bolstering food security through support to farmers, reducing our rural skills deficit and increasing market access.

The province needs to have a more innovative approach to budgeting, such as leveraging assets like land and finance to secure investment. Public-private sector partnerships are also critical to secure funds and skills to enhance development and service levels.

Budgets are an ideological issue. However, if we adopt the right policy choices, this province can become the place of rising opportunity in which the quality of life of all our people can be improved. On Friday we will be watching very closely to see to what extent these policy choices are being made.