Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told Members of Parliament that members of the legislature would need to follow his example in containing costs, if only to demonstrate to taxpayers that government was committed to spending revenues more responsibly.
The minister was addressing a joint meeting of Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance, the Standing Committee on Appropriations, a Select Committee on Finance and a Select Committee on Appropriations on Thursday.
Mboweni's briefing to the MPs came after he tabled his 2020/21 Budget Speech in Parliament on Wednesday. He told MPs that his message to ministers to opt for economy class flights instead of business class flights also applied to them.
Mboweni's speech proposed requiring economy class travel for all domestic flights, except in exceptional circumstances.
Addressing the joint meeting on Thursday afternoon, Mboweni told members that 2020/21 revenue was projected to be R1.58 trillion, or 29.2% of gross domestic product.
'It just looks bad'
However, he said, expenditure was projected at R1.95 trillion, or 36% of GDP, meaning SA had a consolidated budget deficit of R370.5 billion, or 6.8% of GDP in 2020/21.
"As leaders of the house, I would like to ask you to join the executive in cost containment measures. The house is independent and the executive cannot control the house. But it just looks bad when we do not follow through consistently.
"Just the optics of it would show that we are making a joint effort. I would urge members to consider joining me in economy class. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but you will get where you are going," said Mboweni.
Step by step, changing behavior. Flying economy class from Johannesburg to Cape Town. February 11, 2020. ???? pic.twitter.com/Jdxs45dDQ1— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) February 11, 2020
Fly SAA... if it's cheaper
National Freedom Party MP Ahmed Shaik Emam said he agreed with the minister that MPs should contain costs, including through flights, adding that National Treasury should encourage members to make use of the embattled national carrier, South African Airways.
Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels said while encouraging members to fly economy class SAA was a good idea, the operational weaknesses that have dogged SAA meant that its economy class flights were not necessarily much cheaper than business class flights on other airlines in the first place.
During Mboweni's Budget Speech, the minister announced measures to contain "runaway costs", including abolishing the current wasteful subsidence and travel system, and replacing the cell phone policy.
The Budget allocates R16.4 billion to SAA over the medium term to settle guaranteed debt and interest.