- The DA, EFF, IFP and FF Plus were not impressed with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's MTBPS.
- The ANC "appreciates the difficult choices faced by government" and "supports government's responsible interventions to manage the national debt".
- The DA, IFP and FF Plus are concerned about the SAA bailout, but the ANC welcomed it and the EFF said SAA should not be sold.
While opposition parties took a dim view to the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tabled on Wednesday – particularly with regards to the SAA bailout and national debt – the ANC welcomed it.
According to a statement from the office of ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina, the ANC caucus was "acutely aware that the minister has tabled the MTBPS within a severely constrained fiscal space".
"This year's MTBPS is also delivered amid the global coronavirus pandemic that has had a devastating impact on the global economy," the statement read.
"The ANC caucus appreciates the difficult choices faced by government in responding to this unprecedented crisis. The ANC supports government's responsible interventions to manage the national debt and prevent South Africa from falling into a deeper debt trap."
The ANC caucus welcomed the decision that the government had "not imposed full-blown austerity measures that could cripple the prospects of recovery".
On SAA, the ANC said:
DA MP and spokesperson on finance Geordin Hill-Lewis was not as enthusiastic about the R10.5 billion bailout for SAA.
"The granting of another R10.5 billion bailout to SAA, on top of R16.4 billion allocated in February's main budget, shows the ANC's disregard for poor South Africans," he said in a statement.
"Minister Mboweni should have held the line and refused this bailout.
"He has made this an issue of principle in the past, and has repeatedly committed that no more public money would be wasted on SAA. But he has now capitulated, has broken that promise, and must now reconsider his position in Cabinet."
He said the DA would continue to mobilise against this bailout, and called on the public to take part in the budget process to make their voices heard in opposition.
'Zombie state company'
Hill-Lewis is also concerned about the debt scenario.
He said South Africa would now spend 21 cents in every rand of tax revenue on paying interest, and will spend more on interest costs [R271 billion], than on police [R104.7 billion] and healthcare [R231.3 billion].
"And because of the ballooning debt, interest costs will even overtake social grants in 2023.
"South Africans will continue to pay for a zombie state company, and will continue to suffer the consequences of ever-higher debt.
"That is why today's Medium Term Budget Speech must be considered a failure."
The EFF was also underwhelmed and described the MTBPS as predictable in a statement.
Its statement read:
"South Africa's huge debt to GDP, budget deficits and high-interest expenditure is as a result of the governing party's mismanagement of the economy."
The party said Mboweni did not provide a "believable plan" on how to address the out of control debt.
"SAA must not be sold to anyone because the bidders will be foreign companies which will not care about the strategic importance of a national airline. Those who assess the importance of SAA just on superficial balance sheets are shortsighted."
IFP MP and spokesperson on finance, Mzamo Buthelezi, said the policy statement "speaks directly to the consequences of poor financial and economic management".
Debt trap 'will compromise our sovereignty'
"Our country would not find itself knee-deep in debt, with a debt to GDP ratio of 81.8%, if we had adequately prepared during the past few years, sans the difficulties of Covid-19," he added in a statement.
Buthelezi said the continued bailouts of SAA and other failing state-owned enterprises should stop.
"We cannot continue to throw money at non-financial restructuring plans.
"We must focus our attention on the agricultural sector – as it is already growing, and we as the IFP have been calling for greater emphasis to be placed on this sector."
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said in a statement it was clear that Mboweni and the government were placing themselves in a checkmate position.