Finance Minister Tito Mboweni oversees a budget cut of R113.1 million for the Western Cape, only a few weeks after the president visited and pledged additional finances for the province. Photo: Twitter/South African Government @GovernmentZA
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni oversees a budget cut of R113.1 million for the Western Cape, only a few weeks after the president visited and pledged additional finances for the province. Photo: Twitter/South African Government @GovernmentZA

Mboweni throws belt-tightening Western Cape to the wolves

By Deidré Baartman Time of article published Jun 28, 2020

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Wednesday was a telling day of finance in Parliament.

While all eyes were on Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni’s special adjustment Budget speech, few took notice of the earlier presentation by the auditor-general on the state of municipal finances.

Ironically, the AG’s presentation was a clear demonstration of the proverbial, biblical “narrow gate” Mboweni referred to. Looking through the gate, Parliament was briefed that 27 of 30 Western Cape municipalities received clean audits.

Each of them is run by the DA.

Provincially, the Western Cape is the province dedicated to the narrow gate mission. We have the lowest staff-to-politician ratio in the country, yet achieved the fastest growing provincial economy with the lowest unemployment rate.

We’ve helped create more than half a million jobs in the past 10 years. When minister Mboweni speaks of zero-based budgeting, he refers to starting from scratch.

It means looking at exactly what the needs are, trimming any excess fat, and spending on what is really needed. This kind of discipline needs to be turned to other provinces, too, because while the Western Cape has been eating soup for years, Mpumalanga offers each of its MPLs a house, three meals a day, and an overseas trip a year.

Fiscal responsibility is a WhatsApp group we’re waiting for other provinces to join.

The Covid-19 pandemic, preceded by a recession, calls for ever greater efforts to revisit our budgets and prioritise especially health needs.

Provinces have the greatest mandate of all spheres of the government to fund and manage health. Yet minister Mboweni oversees a budget cut of R113.1 million for the Western Cape, only a few weeks after the president visited and pledged additional finances for the province.

We will reach our peak of infections at the end of July.

We’ve built Africa’s largest field hospital to manage the situation.

Our targeted hot spot approach has been adopted by the national government. And our ‘whole of government’ approach has seen the rescue of lives and livelihoods.

But now we have been hung out to dry by the president and his finance minister who award the province with just over 10% of what is needed to overcome Covid-19 in the Western Cape.

This is not zero-based budgeting; it is abandoning the loyal sheep to wolves as it passes the narrow gate.

* Deidré Baartman, MPL, DA Western Cape spokesperson on finance, economic opportunities, and tourism.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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