Editorial: We’ve only just begun to put SA on right path

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Finance minister Tito Mboweni delivers his 2019 budget speech in Parliament on February 20 2019 in Cape Town. Mboweni, a former SA Reserve Bank governor delivered his first budget speech as minister of finance amid socioeconomic and political issues in the country. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images
Finance minister Tito Mboweni delivers his 2019 budget speech in Parliament on February 20 2019 in Cape Town. Mboweni, a former SA Reserve Bank governor delivered his first budget speech as minister of finance amid socioeconomic and political issues in the country. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden budget on Wednesday only just begins to put the country on the correct trajectory.

Putting together the first proper post-Zuma-era budget and repairing the damage caused during that time was always going to be a tough task.

One of the big challenges was dealing with state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which play a major role in the economy and were seen by Zuma and his dirty acolytes as a treasure trove.

Mboweni had to make some hard-to-swallow decisions.

We know power utility Eskom is going to go through the government’s latest bailout of R69 billion quicker than the diesel power stations could light.

We know national carrier SAA will continue to make losses, but keep its huge staff complement. And other SOEs are not immune to wasting taxpayers’ money.

We know the economy is not performing as it should and is failing to produce any meaningful jobs.

We know the public service is bloated and labour will always fight for what is right to protect their members’ interests.

What is significant is that business has not played its part to help uplift the economy to the levels which would be acceptable, partly because of policy uncertainty and political decisions taken in the past decade.

Now the country is trying to work its way back to normality. And it needs to look inwardly – just as a family which is in financial troubles.

Instead of continually doing the same things with the same budget month in and month out and expecting different results, desperate families will look at what needs to change to become financially viable.

The country should deploy the same tactic and be honest with itself, asking pertinent questions about the things that cost lots of money with no return on investment.

We needed to be bolder.

Should we continue bailing out Eskom? Should we have any interest in the lossmaking SAA, which does not serve the needs of the majority of the country?

Should the executive be so bloated that every politician sees ascendance to ministerial positions as a get-rich-quick scheme?

As Mboweni asked: Does the state need to run all the enterprises it owns?

As we look for answers, we must keep in mind the interests of the entire country and its economic revival and not merely at sectional interests.

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Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will act as health minister after President Cyril Ramaphosa placed Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave while the SIU completes the probe into the irregular Digital Vibes contract. What are your thoughts on this?
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