THERE were mixed reactions from political parties to yest budget speech presented by provincial planning and treasury MEC Phumulo Masualle.

The Eastern Cape legislatu official opposition leader, Congress of the People’s (COPE) Sam Kwelita, said “there were good elements in the budget, but at the same time we have serious concerns about the limited increase in the education department’s budget”.

He said COPE welcomed the commitment to deal with officials who did business with the state, but he said education’s limited increase from R26.287-billion to R26.972-billion was tantamount to a decrease if “one takes inflation into consideration”.

“If you decrease education’s cut you provide less and less support material for schools. That’s a challenge,” said Kwelita.

Democratic Alliance’s (DA) leader Bobby Stevenson agreed with COPE, saying yesterday’s budget would leave education to walk “on a fiscal tightrope”.

And if “the department fails to deal with the issue of the 6 700 ‘double parked’ educators and the thousands of employees on extended sick leave, the education budget won’t balance.

“It will plunge this province into a financial crisis,” said Stevenson.

But United Democratic Front’s (UDM) Max Mhlathi said Masualle’s R59.2-billion was most welcome considering the global economic climate.

Overall the budget increased by 5.4% over the previous year, which highlights the extremely tight fiscal space in which the province operates in.

Mhlathi and StevensON agreed that there was no room for “wastage, corruption and maladministration”.

Mhlathi said some of the officials and business people who packed the House yesterday, were there to check ‘where am I going to get my slice’.

“People have no interest in dealing with the challenges of shortage of teachers in our schools, nurses and doctors in our hospital but how much money they will make.

“That cuts across government department. As long as we do not deal with the uncontrollable mark-ups which sees the province buying a loaf of bread for R25, we are not going to see any value for the money we inject into these departments,” said Mhlathi.

The DA also criticised Masualle decision to use R1.2billion meant as a cushion against declining equitable share to deal with last year’s mismanagement, instead of service delivery.

“The issue of the bloated bureaucracy in spite of the MEC’s commitment in the previous financial year was simply not addressed,” said Stevenson.