Budget boost for KZN

2019-03-08 14:45

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The KZN provincial government, which is under immense pressure to stimulate the provincial economy and create jobs, has been forced to hold back on additional spending cuts and has instead increased allocations to several programmes.

Tabling the province’s R130 billion budget in the KZN Legislature on Thursday, Finance MEC Belinda Scott said increased allocations for programmes such as infrastructure would help stimulate the province’s sluggish economy, which has shed thousands of jobs in recent years.

Acknowledging that the economic outlook remained cloudy, she said: “It is therefore important that the country as well as the province continue to invest in infrastructure development.

“This ties in with the tasks listed in the State of the National Address (Sona) by President Cyril Ramaphosa, namely; to accelerate economic growth and to create jobs,” she said.

In line with the provincial government’s expansionary approach, a massive R16,9 billion would be spent on infrastructure projects in the current financial year — representing a more than R1 billion increase compared to the previous financial year.

Scott also increased the education allocation by R3 billion from last year, to R54 billion, which is the largest chunk of the budget.

The Health Department, which is the second biggest in terms of expenditure, received R45 billion, a R3 billion jump.

The Office of the Premier, which received R714 million, will spend R66,7 million on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini through the Royal Household Trust.

According to Treasury documents that form part of the budget, the provincial government will spend close to R300 million on the salaries of the province’s izinduna (headmen) in the current financial year.

The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) that will be responsible for 50% of the izinduna salaries, was allocated R10,8 billion.

To ease the financial burden on Cogta, the other 50% of the izinduna salaries will come from the other departments.

Scott said Cogta was expected to spend some of the funds on strengthening municipalities in the province, some of which are currently under administration.

“The department will also continue to support the installation and recognition of amakosi — this department’s focus is on accelerating economic growth, but also to strengthen the capacity of the state,” she said.

While there were no additional budget cuts, with Scott sticking to the same measures put in place in the previous financial years — which she said have contributed to R32 billion savings for the provincial government — she urged departments to continue cutting non-essential goods and services.

“Provincial Treasury took very conscious and mindful steps in this budget to protect the service delivery budgets of the departments from being cut.

“We must redirect more and more funds to core service delivery programmes for the benefit of our people,” she said.

“The overarching responsibilities are to encourage economic growth, develop skills, and improve conditions of life of all South Africans, to fight corruption,” she said.

The Office of the Premier used to be responsible for Amafa, an entity that looks after the province’s heritage resources. Scott said Amafa will now be taken over by the provincial Arts and Culture Department.

While Scott remained positive about the future, she said economic conditions, which had been deteriorating over recent years, had badly affected the provincial government.

“These are difficult times for the province as this is the seventh conservative MTEF period where we are losing money, yet our responsibilities to our people are not diminishing,” she said.

Briefing the media after tabling her budget in the provincial legislature, Scott said she was concerned about the situation in the Msunduzi Municipality, which is struggling to deliver services due to corruption and poor management. “What I know is that there is currently an intervention by the national Treasury,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kzn budget

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