Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. FILE PICTURE: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS

Cape Town - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday warned Minister Tito Mboweni that it wanted to see turnaround plans for embattled state-owned enterprises that would not result in job losses.

"We want clear turnaround plans for SOE’s that will not involve rendering thousands of workers unemployed at SABC, SAA, SA Express, Denel, Prasa, Transnet," the power labour federation said in a statement on the eve of the budget.

The call comes after the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) threatened last week to withhold its support for the ruling African National Congress in national elections in May should the government push ahead with the plan President Cyril Ramaphosa announced to unbundle power utility Eskom.

Cosatu said it recognised the fiscal crises facing the state but said it looked to government to cut waste and stem corruption, manage budgets better and increase spending that would uplift the poor and boost growth.

"The government needs to increase targeted expenditure to protect and uplift the poor and stimulate badly needed economic growth and at the same time begin to contain and reduce the unsustainable levels of public debt.  This is a matter of urgency and one that can be done if there is the political will. "

It noted that municipalities regularly failed to spend their budgets and said instead funding was wasted on what it termed "vanity projects".

"It is unacceptable that R12.5 billion has been allocated to build five departmental head offices and our consulate in New York. It is time the government learns to spend worker’s taxes in a smart way."

Cosatu argued that there was room for raising personal taxes for the rich, along with a need for Treasury to relieve the tax burden on the working classes.

"Whilst recognising the increased limit to how high taxes can be raised, Cosatu believes that the rich do not pay their fair share.  There is space to raise corporate income tax, personal income tax for those earning above R1.5 million per annum, inheritance and estate taxes and most critically import duties to protect local industries and jobs."

Analysts say Mboweni is walking a tightrope in the pre-election budget with the imperative to bail out Eskom, but expectations from the markets and ratings agencies to make further financial support for the utility conditional on restructuring and reducing its bloated staff component.

African News Agency (ANA)