In 2017 Minister of Finance Pavin Gordhan was flanked by Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas and Director-General Lungile Fuzile, striding towards Parliament to deliver the budget Speech. There was much to do.
This year, who will it be?
After all, the sorry state of South Africa’s economy will have to be revealed, in particular:
- The depth of the fiscal under collection (Will the commissioner of Sars, Tom Moyane, be seated in the upper gallery waiting for the nod of thanks and appreciation from the minister?);
- The amount of capital required to keep those insolvent state-owned entities afloat (regular emergency handouts are so amateurish);
- The innovative plan to fund free tertiary education (the student leaders should be in the gallery. They do after all represent our future);
- An increase in the paltry sum inefficiently given to the poor;
- The rumoured state sponsorship of Jacob Zuma’s protection and legal fees;
- The plan as to how all this additional revenue will be raised.
Meanwhile, we have been subjected to another year of corruption and maladministration of public institutions and state-owned entities, wasteful and irregular expenditure, the hovering controlling presence of the Gupta cephalopod, and bullying by Sars (hence, the tax-paying public is currently rather prickly and unsupportive).
For whatever reason, Sars has dismally failed as the tax collector. The only question that remains is by how much.
Obviously certain taxes need to be raised, new taxes may be introduced, and certain incentives may have to be cut. This will hit taxpayers hard. Raising Vat will be devastating to the poor. And all this has to be accomplished between National Treasury and Sars, with their ever dwindling supply of knowledgeable staff.
Somewhat trickier, changes require legislation to be written, systems to be changed, and Sars’s staff to administer the changes. Let me not forget the training. There are very few staff left at Sars who are capable of running training courses, and these are generally the top specialists, who should be bringing in the money…
Notwithstanding the above hurdles, the budget should offer solutions to the low skills base, creation of jobs, high unemployment, low business confidence and the lack of fixed investment. There should be an update on the recommendations of the president’s committees, established at the time of the Medium-Term Budget. The purpose of the committee was to make hard decisions. Did they?
The budget should also address those government departments who are wasting state resources and not providing the services. Why does parliament not have a rogue’s gallery for those ministers who have not delivered?
Given his checkered past, his links to the Gupta brotherhood and alleged hand in state capture (refer to Betrayal of the Promise), his restructuring of SOE boards as Minister of Public Enterprises, is Gigaba really the right person to open his arms in supplication saying: “gimme”?
Let us forever pay homage to Nelson Mandela, and never forget his promise on behalf of the newly-elected ANC government in 1994: “ …to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination… to build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world”.
This budget should be the start of new beginnings, a country triumphantly rising out of the fetid depths of state capture, and backed by its citizens, investors and taxpayers. Then we can face the world and state: “We are open for business and you will want to do business with us”.