ANC pins 2014 hopes on ‘elections budget’

2012-08-04 17:35

The ANC wants to use next year’s budget to boost its image ahead of the national elections in 2014.

In a move that’s caused unease both within and outside the party, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has said in a party document that the 2013/14 budget would be an “elections budget”.

His statement has left some ­worried that the party could be pushing those in charge of the ­government purse strings to adjust spending in a way that would ­unfairly boost the ANC’s image.

In his scene-setting report to last week’s lekgotla of ANC national executive committee (NEC) members and government leaders, Mantashe wrote: “Ministries should also remember that the budget of 2013/14 is an elections budget. This requires a serious step change with regards to ­implementation.”

The ANC is under pressure after its support in the 2009 general elections dropped by 3.8% from the five years before to 65.9%.

President Jacob Zuma, whose leadership could be challenged at the party’s December elective ­conference, also needs to silence critics who fear that the party’s share of the vote will drop even ­further under his rule.

The party needs to clean up its image amid service delivery failures in municipalities countrywide and repeated failures to deliver school textbooks in Limpopo.

Two NEC members who attended the meeting, one an MP and one a provincial government leader, said some in the meeting were ­concerned Mantashe’s words might be misinterpreted.

The provincial leader said: “It should happen every year that we deliver on programmes.”

But Mantashe told City Press there was nothing untoward about preparing an “elections budget”.

“It is very significant because it is the last before the election,” he said.

“In the first two years you should be finding your feet, and in years three to five you should be up and running, and implementing.”

Asked whether an “elections budget” redirected money to welfare programmes, he said: “You can’t spend more money than you have, and you can’t redirect money.”

He said government spending was dictated by health, education, jobs, rural development and safety programmes, as the ANC had promised voters in 2009.

Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakane defended Mantashe, saying his report referred to the “implementation of budgets, not additional allocations of money in an election year”.

Sikhakane said the Treasury’s three-year rolling budget plans were guided by Cabinet’s policy priorities.

“The 2012 medium-term expenditure framework published in February takes us through the 2014 elections.”

He admitted there could be changes to the budget, but “they would be marginal given the tight fiscal space we are currently ­experiencing”.

DA spokesperson on finance Tim Harris said although the Treasury had so far been fairly immune to party political pressure, he was concerned the ANC used phrases like “elections budget”.

“The budget should respond to the needs of the people regardless of where you are in an electoral ­cycle,” Harris said.

Ebrahim Fakir, head of governance at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, said some countries had “populist” budgets that could be tailored around elections, but fiscal discipline was too tight here.

“You will have minor tweaks (to the budget), but nothing dramatic, not a 20% shift to welfare, for ­instance,” he said.

According to a report submitted to the lekgotla, R66.6 billion is needed to reverse the schools ­infrastructure backlog. Another R20 billion is needed for maintenance and repairs.

The party has also drawn up a ­national plan to shake up ­municipal services.

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