'Not too shabby': Criticism and praise for Godongwana’s budget speech

23 February 2022 - 17:18
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Finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s maiden budget speech has met with mixed reaction, with some political parties saying it was a damp squib while others sang his praises.

Godongwana delivered his much-anticipated budget speech in parliament on Wednesday. 

The EFF's Floyd Shivambu, who found the speech “underwhelming”, said: “There is nothing new that inspires hope that we are going to give meaningful jobs for the 11-million unemployed people.”

He said what stood out was that the debt servicing bill was at its highest level since 1994 — a situation that was concerning.

“The state is going to spend R310bn paying interests of loans that have been accumulated from different institutions domestically and globally,” he said.

This was the main reason the EFF had protested outside parliament.

“We are going to raise this with the National Treasury, that the manner in which the fiscus is being handled is not sustainable and is not going to inspire economic growth. The way we handle borrowing is very problematic.”

COPE’s Willie Madisha echoed Shivambu’s sentiments, saying: “This was the worst budget speech I have ever heard in SA.”

Madisha had expected Godongwana to table a clear capacity programme, but this was not the case, he said.

“More than 65% of the youth in SA are not working. The poverty rate is extremely high and there is a very serious problem of SA borrowing loans from beyond our seas on a daily basis ... This is the most useless speech I have ever heard.”

DA shadow minister of finance Dion George said the party liked the direction the minister was taking the country in. But he added: “He was overly cautious and did not address the elephant in the room, which is the public sector wage bill.

“We know that politically he is unable to manoeuvre and that is why he is not able to take the bold steps to tackle the debt crisis because that public sector wage bill is too high.”

The IFP’s Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi said he found the speech very balanced.

“We are very happy and we feel that this is the most welcomed budget speech and the fact that the president in his Sona emphasised the issue of trying to deal with corruption and then more money gets allocated to law enforcement agencies. We are happy that the minister tried to balance the circumstances.”

FF Plus leader Peter Groenewald was concerned about SA becoming a welfare state.

“About 46% of the population is dependent on a social grant, is what the minister said.”

But he said there were positives. “We do welcome that the government recognises that ordinary citizens can only afford so much, so the no increase in the fuel levy and the Road Accident Fund is welcome,” Groenewald said.

The UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said South Africans should give credit to Godongwana for delivering a “not-too-shabby budget”.

“I think the minister touched on all the relevant and important points including the issue of debt stabilisation and that some of the revenue that was generated will be used towards that,” he said.

University of Stellenbosch Business School’s Dr Nthabiseng Moleko said the 2% growth Godongwana was targeting for this year is “pretty much” where the country was in 2019.

“There is no change. In 2019 we were in an economic crisis except that we didn’t have 12-million in unemployment. We are seeing a worsening of the situation ... we are not seeing the types of reforms that are going to present different outcomes.”

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