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#Budget: Gordhan gearing up for another balancing act

Politics
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could be delivering his last Budget on Wednesday as speculation mounts on his successor being in the corridors of Parliament.

Gordhan had delivered austerity budgets over the past few years as the government struggled to grow the economy.

The economy has been growing at below 4% for the past 10 years. Last year's growth is projected at 0.3%, despite earlier forecasts of 1.5%.

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Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will stick to fiscal discipline.

However, sluggish growth is not the only issue that will affect the Budget. Gordhan has to strike a balancing act. The government has been trying to raise more revenue and last year even proposed a sugar tax.

The country's more than R1.2trillion has many competing needs and President Jacob Zuma outlined key projects in his State of the Nation Address which need to be met.

Education has become the single biggest expenditure in the budget. Expenditure on education has grown exponentially in the past five years. Figures from the National Treasury showed a few months ago, during the medium-term budget policy statement, that education was the highest item on it.

It has been so for the past five years. Education consumes about one-fifth of the Budget, and is followed by health.

Zuma said in the Sona that R32bn had been redirected from other functions of the state to fund higher education.

Gordhan will outline the allocation to higher education.

The foundation phase has been said to be key for the development of schoolchildren up to university level.

Despite the expected bigger allocation to higher education, Gordhan will also stick to fiscal discipline.

Financial prudence has been his emphasis over the past few years and he is expected to have more cuts in public spending. The expenditure ceiling is currently standing at R25bn.

The finance minister will further expand on the R847bn in infrastructure development. This is one of the mega-projects of the state, and Zuma signed into law the Infrastructure Development Bill three years ago to cut red tape in government and fast-track these mega projects.

Zuma also set up the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission to oversee them.

Local government gets only 10% from the fiscus, but municipalities and Parliament have been asking for more money from the Treasury. However, it is doubtful that Gordhan will oblige.

Political Bureau

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