Parties slam Godongwana’s ‘bailout’ budget as an election ‘gimmick’

21 February 2024 - 18:18
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Finance minister Enoch Godongwana looks on after a press conference ahead of his 2024 budget speech in Cape Town.
Finance minister Enoch Godongwana looks on after a press conference ahead of his 2024 budget speech in Cape Town.

Political parties have criticised finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s budget, calling it a missed opportunity to set the country on economic recovery at the expense of the upcoming elections.

Godongwana delivered the budget review on Wednesday. 

The official opposition party said the minister failed to address the economic crisis, adding that his delivery was indicative of a “panicking ANC”.

DA MP Dion George said the ruling party has no plan to accelerate economic growth, resolve relentless blackouts, stabilise debt, rein in runaway expenditure, support vulnerable South Africans and combat corruption.

“This budget is a confirmation that the ANC only cares for its own survival and not about the plight of battling South African households who are unable to put enough food on their tables. There was no mention of the so-called food security plan of action, announced last year, to protect consumers from the burden of skyrocketing food prices.

“The minister could very easily have expanded the zero-VAT rated basket of food to bring immediate relief to South African households. He could also have reduced the taxes and levies on fuel which would have provided further relief.”

The DA noted the minister’s announcement of the government’s support for private-public partnerships to rebuild South Africa’s crumbling infrastructure — but it argued there is a notable absence of a coherent plan to fast-track this initiative. 

The party welcomed that there appears to be no further direct bailouts to SOEs and no additional funds allocated to the “doomed NHI”.

They have harshly criticised the growth forecast, down to 0.6%, saying it will significantly impact revenue collection and the funds available for service delivery, with revenue R56bn lower than expected this time last year.

“Load-shedding and the crisis in our logistics sector has also impacted revenue generation significantly. Revenue generated from the mining sector decreased by 39.2%, while revenue generated from the manufacturing sector decreased by nearly 6%.

“The lower-than-expected growth and revenue shortfall has prompted government to launch its raid on the South African Reserve Bank.”

Though government claims to be making progress on resolving relentless blackouts, the DA said the return of high level load-shedding ensures that the lights remain off, with government’s commitment to unbundling Eskom not moving fast enough, while the entity continues to generate enormous losses.

“We note with concern that the Treasury continues to work with Transnet to offload the entities’ debt onto the sovereign balance sheet. This situation is not dissimilar to Eskom, as the entity reflects an inability to repay its debt and needs to borrow even more to remain barely operational. A better solution would be to accelerate Transnet’s privatisation.”

George slammed the president’s promise to restructure the size of the state, saying this move is not reflected in the numbers.

“The public sector wage bill continues to balloon unsustainably and an additional R25bn has been budgeted to cover an increase in the public sector wage bill due to a two-year deal agreed on last year, while expected budget cuts of R58bn, also announced in the MTBPS, were reversed.

“We note the extension of the social relief of distress (SRD) grant to next year. There is a notable absence of any policy decision or funding solution over the medium term.”

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said the people of South Africa ought to not be misled by Godongwana’s presentation, saying the tax hike for companies will drive away investment.

“People must not be misled by the fact that there was no increase in taxes and fuel levy. There was no adjustment when it comes to the brackets of personal income tax, that means people are going to pay more tax if they receive any increase in their salaries.

“This is an election year — how long is the fuel levy going to remain as it is, or are they going to wait for after the election, only to have an enormous impact on the economy?

“The announcements made as far as the FF Plus is concerned, which is quite troublesome, is the fact that there will be a universal income tax for companies of at least 15% on their profits. That is not going to encourage further investment for even local businesses. Multinational companies in South Africa that earn more than €750m will have to pay 15% of their profits to the country, and that is a huge problem because that will not enhance foreign investment in the country.”

UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa slammed the budget presentation as a gimmick by the ANC-led government to garner support before the polls.

“What are we going to do with half a per cent growth, with all the socioeconomic needs that the country has? We must consider that they’re trying to move an elections budget, that’s why they did not increase the fuel levy as they’ve always done in the past.

“That is why they decided to increase social grants by R100, but there’s a catch to it — they are going to get part of it before elections and part of it they will get after elections, depending on whether they vote for the ruling party,” he said. 


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