South African Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.

If the DA had its way, tomorrow’s Budget would do away with several ministries, including Economic Development, and the National Youth Development Agency, while slashing allocations to the Presidency, VIP protection and intelligence services.

Outlining its alternative, “Budgeting for jobs and change”, yesterday, DA MP and finance spokesman Tim Harris cited cost-cutting steps taken in the Western Cape, where the opposition party governs, and said: “We can do more with less by spending less on the politicians.”

The DA, which launched its election manifesto on Sunday, said the state could save R2.76 billion by abolishing the ministries of Economic Development, saving R169 million; and Women, Children and People with Disabilities, saving R219m. Abolishing district municipalities would save R500m, and the youth agency R411m.

By cutting the secret services budget by R3.3bn, reducing the Presidency budget by R231m, spending R211m less on VIP security and abolishing the sector education and training authorities, the DA argued, roughly another R18.6bn would be saved.

The DA said R987m would be recouped by limiting civil servants’ pay hikes to the rate of inflation and returning previous above-inflation increases, although there would be wriggle room for performance rewards. By reducing inappropriate spending and corruption in the public service, another R10bn would be saved.

It calculated that privatising the SABC and selling some of its assets would save R100m, while privatising Sentech, the state broadcast signal distributor, would save R685m.

This costing was in line with the DA’s manifesto promise that a clean and streamlined government would save R30bn a year.

While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to make no radical announcements, even though the Budget comes just two months before the May 7 elections, he has to perform a tough juggling act. In a slow-growth economic environment, consumers are under pressure from rising petrol and food prices and personal indebtedness, while unemployment has remained stubbornly high.

The finance minister has to balance government debt, which has risen to 45 percent of gross domestic product from 27 percent in 2008, with the need to ensure social grants remain a safety net for millions and that the delivery of crucial infrastructure, basic services and housing continues.

Sitting in the opposition benches, the DA is not hamstrung by the practicalities and limitations of balancing what is available in the national coffers with spending wishlists.

The DA says its spending would include R900m on increasing free basic electricity to 100kWh a month, R1.5bn in transport subsidies to pensioners and job-seekers and R1.6bn extra for student financial aid this year. Another R667m would be spent on a comprehensive youth employment subsidy, while R1bn would go in the form of “opportunity vouchers” to young people wanting to start their own businesses. - Cape Argus