Image credit: Parliament of RSA / Twitter
Image credit: Parliament of RSA / Twitter
Tito Mboweni had the unenviable task of summarising South Africa’s dire economic situation, but he gave a relatively good account of himself during the Mid-Term budget speech.
Okay, the rand might disagree – it took a 2% slide during the address – but Mboweni confronted the demons plaguing SOEs, and remained stoically honest about South Africa’s revised growth forecast, which has been slashed by more than half.
Here’s the best of what he had to say on a stifling-hot Wednesday afternoon in Parliament. He even found time for some cheeky digs at Donald Trump and Floyd Shivambu. Now that’s multi-tasking.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … we [could] all go to heaven, or we could go the other way… To hell”
“Agriculture will be an important driver of our economic recovery. The Land Bank will continue to support emerging farmers. Our reprioritisation efforts will support the Bank to conclude transactions worth R16.2 billion over the next three to five years that will create jobs in agriculture.”
“South Africa’s growth forecast has been revised down from 1.5% to 0.7%. Growth is expected to recover gradually to over 2 per cent in 2021 as confidence returns and investment gathers pace.”
“We must choose to reduce the structural deficit, especially the consistently high growth in the real public sector wage bill. New fiscal anchors may be required to ensure sustainability, in addition to the expenditure ceiling.”
“The Acting SARS Commissioner has committed to processing the outstanding VAT refunds as quickly as possible. We estimate total additional VAT refunds of R20 billion, made up of R11 billion to clear the backlog, and an upward revision of R9 billion for the current fiscal year.”
“Rising interest rates in the United States of America and a stronger dollar reflect a strong US economy. In the medium term, strong US growth will support export growth. But we have trade barriers, being introduced by… Some president.”
“In telecommunications, the proposed policy for the licensing of high-demand spectrum has been gazetted. Frequencies to enable high speed internet will be auctioned early next year. Steps will be taken to reduce data costs and improve data quality.”
“The gradual phased implementation of National Health Insurance is adequately financed. We are immediately reprioritising R350 million to recruit in excess of 2 000 health professionals into public health facilities. We are
further reprioritising R150 million to purchase beds and linen for needy hospitals.”
“I have asked the President and the Minister of Defence for the military to assist with engineering and other expertise to resolve the crisis in the Vaal River System. I am happy to report that approval has been granted. The generals in charge have already started working on solutions.”
“The model of VBS was right. Reach poorer communities and give them opportunities. We’ll be working with regulators to make sure this model does not disappear. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But the perpetrators of the Great Heist must be locked up, after a fair trial.”
“After considerable debate and consultation, as of the 1 April 2019, government will zero-rate the following items:”
1. Sanitary pads
2. Bread flour
3. Cake flour
“The revenue loss associated with zero-rating these items is estimated at R1.2 billion. However, zero-rating these products targets low-income households and restores the dignity of our people. Come on, Floyd [Shivambu], I thought you would clap that!”
“State institutions are being repaired and renewed, but serious governance problems exist across the public sector. Our state-owned companies need to be reconfigured in a number of ways.”
As we were preparing this Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, Madiba’s wise words came to mind: ‘Difficulties break some, but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.'”