Cape Town - After this weekend’s triumph by the victorious Springboks, lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy for successive World Cups, and the only team to have done so four times, President Cyril Ramaphosa last night declared December 15 a special public holiday.
In a televised address that dealt mostly with the achievements of his government, ahead of tomorrow’s medium-term Budget statement by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, Ramaphosa said South Africa’s economy had recovered much of the losses brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He acknowledged the progress made since the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, despite the significant challenges faced in recent years. He highlighted the improvement in electricity supply, job creation, infrastructure development, and the efforts to combat crime and corruption.
“Despite the progress we are making, poverty, inequality and unemployment remain high. We continue to face domestic and global pressures, and our economy is growing too slowly for us to overcome the challenges facing our country.
“Load shedding has constrained economic growth. The under-performance of the ports and rail network is affecting our ability to get exports to market,” said Ramaphosa.
According to economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the government’s tax revenues are projected to be short by R52 billion in February, with the consolidated budget shortfall to be 5.3% of gross domestic product in the current financial year, significantly more than the Treasury’s projection of 4%. In his address, Ramaphosa acknowledged that government spending had exceeded its revenues.
“Government spending has exceeded revenue since the 2008 global financial crisis, without a commensurate increase in economic growth. As the Minister of Finance has noted, for every rand that government collects in revenue, 18 cents go towards servicing our national debt,” said Ramaphosa.
This, he said, meant that interest payments on the government’s national debt exceeded the budget for the SAPS. “Ultimately, more rapid and inclusive growth is the only solution to unemployment, poverty and inequality. Growth is also necessary for the sustainability of public finances,” said Ramaphosa.
He underlined the commitment to combat corruption and outlined the progress made in bringing those responsible for state capture to justice. He mentioned the importance of building compacts with key stakeholders in various areas to address the country’s challenges collaboratively.
While acknowledging the severe economic challenges, the president emphasised the need for rapid and inclusive growth, noting that growth was crucial for addressing poverty, inequality, and unemployment. He stressed the importance of fiscal stability and responsible fiscal policies, protecting essential services, and continuing social grants and public employment programmes.
“We have much more to do. But like the Springboks, we have the determination and commitment to overcome any challenge,” said Ramaphosa.