Cape Town - Finance MEC Alan Winde has prioritised five focus areas - in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) - to accelerate growth, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality in the Western Cape.

In his budget speech on Thursday, Winde said the provincial government would focus on:

* Improving the competitiveness of the economy.

* Stimulating employment opportunities.

* Improving access to and the quality of social services.

* Improving the performance of government.

* Building partnerships for regional socio-economic development.

Infrastructure investment, he said, was the key to the province’s job creation strategy. There are 573 000 unemployed people in the Western Cape, almost 70 percent of whom are between the ages of 15 and 34.

The provincial government will spend R4.5 billion on infrastructure projects across departments this year.

This year will see new schools, clinics and roads being built and upgraded across the province. Some 80km of surfaced roads will be rehabilitated.

Health and education will receive the lion’s share (72 percent) of the Western Cape’s R43.6bn budget for 2013/14. The two departments have been allocated more than R31bn.

Health has been allocated R15.8bn. The money will go towards providing health care services at 274 clinics and 53 hospitals in the province. More than R33m will go towards the roll-out of an improved diagnostic test for tuberculosis.

Just over R15.6bn has been allocated to education. Of this, R1.2bn will be spent on new schools and maintenance of existing school buildings.

More than R49bn, over three years, will be invested to improve education outcomes and provide quality education.

“In the 2013 medium-term expenditure framework (three years) the Education Department’s early childhood development programme receives R1.5bn, which includes an additional R79.6m in the outer year for extra teachers to support the development of the province’s 65 000 enrolled Grade R learners,” Winde said.

By 2015, R100m will have been provided for extra teachers across all grades in the poorest schools.

Winde said the province’s first priority should be to prevent the most impoverished from turning to substance abuse to escape their circumstances.

“Drugs and alcohol are an insidious threat to our communities, and to our ability to boost our economy through the active participation of all.”

Social development has been allocated R81m, out of a total of R1.5bn, to combat substance abuse. R92m will also be spent over the next three years to fund the salaries of social work graduates.

Transport and public works will receive R4.6bn this year, the third largest slice (11 percent) of the budget. Most of the funding will go towards the preservation of provincial government buildings, road maintenance and 123 construction projects.

Human settlements will receive R2.1bn. The department aims to build 12 102 houses and deliver 7 012 serviced sites. Of this, R733m will be allocated to the City of Cape Town.

Community safety has been allocated R388m to “drive the strategy of increasing safety in the province”.

The Western Cape economy was forecast to grow at 3 percent this year and would accelerate next year, averaging 3.8 percent between 2013 and 2017, Winde said.

“Despite positive growth prospects for the Western Cape economy and improvements in access to and the quality of public health and education, many social challenges, inextricably linked to poverty and marginalisation, remain,” he said. “These challenges include stagnant employment, rising unemployment, increasing substance abuse, high rates of violent crime, fractured households, housing backlogs, poor literacy and numeracy rates and attitudes toward high risk sexual behaviour, particular in respect of the impact on youth.”

Over the next three years, the provincial government will spend over R112m on “skills interventions” for unemployed youth.

Winde said the provincial government’s spending on infrastructure development over the next three years would result in 100 000 jobs.

Economic development and tourism will get R389m. The money would go towards creating an enabling environment for job creation, Winde said.

The ANC said the biggest disappointment about the budget were the figures given for housing development, which kept on dwindling.

“The DA government has further reduced its targets for housing, which over the past four years left tens of thousands of families without the houses promised to them in annual plans,” said ANC MPL Carol Beerwinkel.

The ANC was also concerned about the increases on education infrastructure and health facilities as the Western Cape could not even spend its present budget on these.

“Especially the money for science and maths development at Dinaledi schools which is upped to R10 million, but at the third quarter of 2012/13 they could only use 4.3 percent of R9.6 million.”

Western Cape Budget R43.6bn:

* More than 250 000 expanded public works programme jobs in the infrastructure, social, economic and environmental sectors over the next three years.

* R112m for the province’s job skills programmes this year - 3 000 jobs in the work and skills programme, 200 youths to be placed in artisan programmes, 100 unemployed postgraduates to be trained in business analysis, 678 matriculants to benefit from the Premier’s Advancement of Youth (government internship) project.

* R8.6m for the new Economic Development Partnership.

* R1.5bn over three years for extra teachers to support the development of the province’s 65 000 enrolled Grade R pupils.

* R100m by 2015 for extra teachers across all grades in poorest schools.

* R3.1bn for new schools, replacement schools, mobile classrooms and infrastructure maintenance.

* R1m to investigate and develop ways to encourage citizens to lead healthier lives.

* R33.3m over three years to roll out an improved diagnostic test for tuberculosis.

* R81.4m for substance-abuse programmes.

* 12 102 houses to be built this year.

* Extra resources for neighbourhood watch groups and safety programmes.

* R24m for after-school sport, recreation and life skills programmes.

* The Treasury to set up a contingency reserve to “insulate” the province against potential external shocks and the stubbornly slow economic environment.

* R188m to enhance the province’s 348 library service points.

* R18.8m to Wesgro to promote and market the Western Cape.

* R67.6m to improve veterinary services.

* 1 900 farmworkers to benefit from life-skills training and development programmes.

* R7.7m for the Berg River Improvement Plan.

* R436m over three years to deliver high-speed internet and to pilot wireless mesh project in Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and Saldanha Bay.

* R1.7bn for the construction of new roads and road maintenance.

* Province’s own receipts are expected to increase to R2bn this year, of which the main contributors are motor vehicle licence fees, revenue from casinos and horse racing taxes, and hospital fees.

* One of the outlying casinos will be moved into the city. This will be discussed in the provincial legislature later this year.

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Cape Argus