Education takes up bulk of KZN budget


KwaZulu-Natal will spend R34.76 billion on education in the 2012/13 financial year, amounting to 42 percent of the province's total budget.

The province's finance MEC Ina Cronje presented the province's annual budget on Friday, which amounts to R83.57 billion.

It is expected to increase to R89.4 billion in 2013/14 and R95.7 billion in the 2014/15 financial year.

The province is expected to spend R26.55 billion on health and R7.4 billion on transport in the next year.

Most of the budget will be funded by allocations from national Treasury and conditional grants from national government.

Cronje said the province's economic growth rate of 3.32 percent in 2011 was slightly down on 3.36 percent in 2010.

"Although the national and provincial growth experienced during 2011 was slightly lower than in 2010, it could have been much worse given the international economic turmoil and uncertainty."

She said unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2011 stood at 19.33 percent.

"In terms of the expanded definition, unemployment, which includes discouraged work seekers, dropped slightly from 36.8 percent in the third quarter to 36.56 percent in quarter four."

At a technical briefing prior to Cronje delivering her budget, head of the KwaZulu-Natal treasury Simiso Magagula said the provincial government had eliminated all bank overdrafts.

The resultant saving on interest payments had helped the provincial government to increase its resources.

He also expressed concern at the increases in the public sector wage bill and whether productivity would keep pace with such increases.

The provincial government expects to pay its employees some R46.43 billion in 2011/12 and this wage bill is expected to increase to R54.7 billion in 2014/5 -- an increase of almost 18 percent over four years.

The bulk of the wage bill is for the payment of education department staff, followed by provincial health department employees.

Cronje's budget includes setting aside about R1 billion each year for the next three years for contingencies.

She warned that the contingency reserve was "not meant to be a bail out in cases of poor budget management, but a cushion for unforeseen expenditure".

Of the R13.5 billion allocated to infrastructure, the province would spend about 40 percent on transport, with most of this concentrated on the backlog in road maintenance.

An amount of R36 million would be spent on improving the airports in Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi.

Total infrastructure spending was expected to increase to R15.5 billion in 2014/15.

The African National Congress (ANC) welcomed the budget.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said in a statement that he was happy that the budget focused on the "provision of service delivery to our people through public schools, public hospitals, construction and maintenance of provincial roads".

"Through the recovery plan instituted a few years ago, the KwaZulu-Natal government has successfully navigated out of its financial doldrums and its strategy ... other provinces are now copying it," he said.

However Congress of the People (Cope) provincial leader Lucky Gabela said the budget "still falls short" in addressing poverty.

He said the state was attempting to assume the role of "primary job creator" and this would "lead to all sorts of problems and reinforce the very institutional and structural constraints we want to resolve".

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