Bold changes needed to turn Eastern Cape around

MEC Oscar Mabuyane’s maiden budget speech, introduced in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature today, did not highlight any bold changes needed to arrest the high unemployment trajectory of the Eastern Cape, which has resulted in 1,5-million people leaving this province since 2006.

This outward migration, together with the mismanagement of our economy, which only grew 0,8% last year, has resulted in the equitable share allocation of the Eastern Cape shrinking by R19,8-billion between 2013/14 and 2021/22.

We need change and we need it now.

This budget did not herald any major shift away from consumption expenditure towards investment expenditure in our hospitals, schools and road infrastructure, which are critical to create the right climate for economic growth.

Expenditure on infrastructure was R8,340-billion in the 2018/19 drops to R8,291-billion, a decrease of R49-million.

Alarmingly, the provincial wage bill continues to rise as a percentage of the budget, which is now at 65,9%, up from 65,5% from the previous financial year.

We need to cut back on our bloated bureaucracy, and ensure core staff such as teachers, nurses and engineers are retained.

No mention was made of belt tightening, where consumption expenditure in our province on items such as travel, accommodation, consultants and catering was in the region of R1,4 billion.

I would have also expected a bold pronouncement from the MEC on the new Audit Amendment Act, where the Auditor General can initiate processes to claim back wasteful expenditure from the officials involved.

Insufficient consequence management remains the soft underbelly of this province, along with corruption.

A Democratic Alliance Provincial Government would create the right environment to retain our people and attract the necessary investment so that we can put the Eastern Cape on a new path. Speeding up service delivery, eradicating corruption and creating a job in every home can be achieved, with the right political leadership in place.

The DA’s track record in the Western Cape speaks for itself, accounting for over 50% of all new jobs created in South Africa last year.