SOCIAL Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has defended the R130 billion given out in social grants, saying grants were not a luxury.
She said grants provided the necessary cover and protection to the poor and vulnerable groups.
Dlamini, who was briefing the media in Parliament yesterday after her budget vote, said critics of the grants should consider the social factors pushing the state to get more people on the social security network.
Currently, the budget for social grants was R130 billion for 16.1 million people.
Critics of the grants have argued that the system was not sustainable because of low economic growth, poor jobs and lack of skilled labour.
This situation has had the unintended consequence of creating a nation dependent on social grants.
The economy was growing at less than 2 percent in spite of the government pushing for 5 percent economic growth in five years.
Ratings agency Moody’s said this week the economy would not achieve 3 percent growth in the next two years.
The National Treasury has projected a 2 percent growth this year.
Dlamini’s special adviser, Zane Dangor, said there should be no outcry on the number of people on social grants because this was not a dole system, where the government supported able-bodied, unemployed people. “We only spend 3 percent of our GDP on social grants, which is not huge,” said Dangor.
He said despite the projection of low economic growth, the country’s social grant system was still sustainable.
South Africa has been shown by studies to be one of the best performers on social grants.
Child-support grants, which takes up a huge pile of the social grant system of R130bn, have grown from 100 000 in 1994 to 11 million beneficiaries.
The other categories of grants beneficiaries are the elderly, who constitute 3.1 million people. The rest are disability grants, foster care grants, military veterans and care-dependency grants.
The department has also clarified that its policy on new beneficiaries of social grants, those between 18 and 21 years old, was still being finalised.