File image: IOL

EASTERN CAPE - As a rural province, the Eastern Cape's budget would speak to rural development, finance MEC Oscar Mabuyane said on Friday. 

Mabuyane was speaking to African News Agency (ANA) at the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg following a meeting with provincial budget and treasury staff. 

He said despite urbanisation, the Eastern Cape still had a population that was rooted in rural areas.

"We are saying there is a rural sector; there are people who don't move and those households that are there need access to roads, electricity and water. We also need to create jobs where they are and the provincial budget must address that." 

He said national treasury was working on budget reforms that would ensure each province received an equity share based on its needs, instead of the population count. 

The Eastern Cape has lost about R19-billion of its budget share due to citizens moving to other provinces, it was revealed during last week's state of the province address. 

Mabuyane said: "We have been raising the point with the national treasury that provinces that were disadvantaged by the apartheid spacial planning remain disadvantaged. Although people leave Eastern Cape to look for greener pastures in other provinces, they always come back to Eastern Cape and are still in need of the same services that they were enjoying in more developed provinces."

He said that the province's economic recovery plan would tap into a stimulus package that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year. 

"We can turn Eastern Cape into a construction site, we can focus on agriculture, we can prioritise tourism and the oceans' economy and create more jobs in agro-processing."

The province has been talking about reviving industrial development areas over the past few years without much action, but Mabuyane said this area remained part of the plan to grow the economy and create more jobs. 

Job creation for the youth was imperative, he said. 

 "We need to get our youth out of the streets so they can stop burning the streets. We have got young people that are energetic who can be productive and help the government to move forward," said Mabuyane. 

The budget will be tabled on March 5 at the Eastern Cape Legislature. 

African News Agency (ANA)