KZN Finance MEC Ravi Pillay presents the 2019/2020 budget speech in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

PIETERMARITZBURG - KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Ravi Pillay has tabled the R130,9 billion budget, admitting that only a joint effort involving different role players would lift the province from the economic doldrums.  

Citing the recent figures which show that unemployment has risen in KZN owing to low economic growth, Pillay has committed treasury to leading the charge in the revival of the province's fortunes through following strict economic principles and ensuring accountability for public funds. 

“There is no place in our action plan for fraud and corruption and neither is there room for failure,” the MEC said.

He admitted that the task of reviving the provincial economy remained a challenge, but drew courage from the past challenges that the province had overcome.

“As we tackle the challenges facing us we will be creative but not reckless, we will be imaginative but not overzealous, we will be ambitious but remain realistic,” Pillay said.  

The highlights of the budget include:

* A R54 billion allocation to the Department of Education that will cover, among others, skills development and ensure the provision of meals to nearly 2.3 million learners in 5,729 schools. Part of the department's budget will be used to attract young people to the teaching profession through provision of bursaries.

* A R45 billion allocation to the Department of Health, part of which will be for programmes such as reducing malaria fatality rates from 0.8% to 0.54%, performing 9,700 cataract surgeries and increasing the average number of daily operational ambulances from 179 to 200. 

* R10 billion to the Department of Transport which will target road construction and maintenance. In addition to this, part of budget will be to subsidising bus services and learner transport services.   

The MEC also highlighted the upgrading of hostels and repairs to the 1,500 houses that were damaged in the floods.

He said that KZN had strong competitive advantage in the form of harbours, fertile land, abundant water resources and that it would build on this to be a better province. 

As part of building on this platform, Pillay said the provincial government, through the Department of Economic Development, would finalise the review of the provincial Tourism Master Plan and provide the latest tourism trends and plans to drive tourism planning, development and marketing for the next five years. 

The developments, the MEC said, provided room for  optimism about the future prospects of KZN.

"We can make KwaZulu-Natal better. Just like we were able to pull ourselves from the devastation of political violence, I have no doubt that we can pull ourselves out of the economic doldrums,"  Pillay said.

In appealing for assistance and partnerships from the private sector, Pillay commended Absa Bank for partnering with the provincial government by allocating a R70 million loan to complement the Youth Business Fund and also setting aside a fund of R500 million to help SMMEs and Co-operatives doing business with the provincial government.  

Provincial treasury will also work closely with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to assist battling municipalities to be functional.

The commitment comes after Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu in his recent report painted a grim picture on the state of municipalities across South Africa. 

Pillay said it was important for KZN to take the lead in good governance because for South Africa to work, KZN had to work.

African News Agency (ANA)