DURBAN - A big chunk of the KwaZulu-Natal budget would go to infrastructure development and job creation.
Delivering her R140 billion budget in the Pietermaritzburg Royal Showgrounds on Wednesday, Finance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube made it clear that most of the money she allocated to departments would have to be spent on infrastructure development and job creation.
Dube-Ncube went as far as detailing projects and costs each department would spend their money on.
The Department of Transport will spend R25.9 billion over three years on infrastructure development.
The department’s activities will be infrastructure delivery and maintenance, as well as transportation services.
The MEC said that there must be a considerable capital investment in road infrastructure to support the national development plan (NDP) priorities, a significant investment in maintenance and repairs, upgrades and additions to existing infrastructure, as well as rehabilitation, renovations and refurbishments to existing infrastructure.
Some of the roads she mentioned by names that needed to be fixed and upgraded were in Bergville under the uThukela District.
Bergville was hit by torrential rains on the weekend which damaged roads and bridges.
The Health Department would spend R6.7 billion of its budget on infrastructure and will undertake a number of construction projects at Osindisweni Hospital at R57 million, R41 million for King Cetshwayo District clinics, and R30 million for Ekhombe Hospital.
At RK Khan Hospital, R25 million is budgeted for major electrical upgrades of the ageing electrical infrastructure, while Northdale Hospital would receive R20 million for roof repairs.
Education’s infrastructure budget is R9.1 billion for completing five new and replacement schools in 2022/23 as it took over early childhood centres from the Department of Social Development.
Human Settlements will spend R11.3 billion over the next three years on various infrastructure projects to advance sustainable livelihoods through various infrastructure and housing development projects.
This commitment will result in close to 53 000 housing opportunities being made available throughout the province. During this financial year, the focus will be on the 20 gazetted priority housing development areas which are located in all districts and in the eThekwini Metro.
“Projects will include the following: the Empangeni mega housing project in the uMhlathuze Municipality is an integrated residential development programme where the plan is to deliver 10 000 units. The JBC housing development in the Newcastle Municipality aims to deliver 11 503 units. The Cornubia integrated residential development project in eThekwini aims to deliver 28 000 units in phase 1,” Dube-Ncube said.
The MEC said investing in infrastructure would create job opportunities.
Apart from opportunities that would be created through infrastructure spending, the MEC also announced R111.9m allocated to all departments to create jobs through the expanded public works programme which she said would employ 18 493 people.
As was expected, the Education and Health departments received the overall lion’s share budget, pocketing R57.4 and R49.6 billion, which made up close to 80% of the province’s budget.
The DA’s Francois Rodgers criticised the MEC for speaking in a tone that suggested that KZN was in the clear economically. He said the budget speech was setting a wrong precedent.
“The DA’s immediate reaction to the budget speech is that it is a bit of a hitch job. Obviously, we realise that we are facing a tough economic time, but if one listens to the tone of the MEC, it almost seems like we are out of the woods and everything is clear, which it’s not. The MEC indicated that most departments were getting an increase, which is not quite true because the increase she is referring to is from last year’s budget and not the expenditure.
“Last year as a province we budgeted R133 billion, and spent R141 billion, and she is basing the increase on the initial budget which is a dangerous precedent. On the positive side, the conditional grants have been substantially increased and can only be welcomed, and more so, as the Education and Health departments are the main beneficiaries,” said Rodgers.
IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said the party welcomed the speech, because it aligned with its call not to construct the new KZN legislature precinct.
“The IFP notes the budget speech tabled by the MEC for Finance, and we welcome it in the context that the leader of government business did not allocate a single cent to the newly proposed KZN legislature precinct,” said Hlabisa.