Pravin Gordhan’s Budget

2014-02-25 20:12

This is the definitive decisive budget speech for Minister Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan before Parliament; some are informing us that this is the last budget speech for Pravin Gordhan as he will not be returning to Cabinet at the end of this government term which ends in May 2014.

Minister Pravin Gordhan was appointed Minister of Finance in the President Zuma Government in 2009. If we assume and go with the wind that this is Pravin Gordhan’s last budget speech what can we say as his legacy?

But let us consider the role first. What is the role of the Minister of Finance? Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Finance is the Chief Finance Officer of the Republic of South Africa.

Pravin Gordhan is the principal economic advisor to President Jacob Zuma and plays a critical role in policy-making by bringing an economic and government financial policy perspective to issues facing the government. He is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy, participating in the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt.

How does Pravin Gordhan fit in to this role? What are his qualities? He is a highly pragmatic fellow. Pragmatic means ‘concerned with what is practicable, expedient or convenient, or with practical consequences rather than with theories and ideas’. Practicality brings in down to earth toughness. That has been his style, what defines and motivates him.

You can see this in his leadership and management of the Treasury and allocation of public funds. His budget speeches have moved beyond the glow of generality to the particulars and specifics. Since his appointment he has been hard at work in seeking to remove wastes across government and non-priority expenditure, his motive has been seeking strategies and laying down principles that will make government efficient and effective.

The principles of effectiveness and efficiency are related but they are different. An effective organization functions in such a way that it leads to desired results or achieves desired objectives. It does the right things in terms of a given framework of expectations.

On the other hand an efficient organization is one which works well, without unnecessary duplication or waste, and within the bounds of affordability and sustainability. It does things correctly in terms of making optimal use of available means. Who can not consider how he laid down rules such as when he sought to ban the use of alcohol during government occasions. Another case was when he was pleading with government officials to consider scaling down expenses by flying economy class.

The second thing to look at when considering Pravin Gordhan is a matter of ethics. Ethics are matters of conscience and the heart not legality or written rules. Conscience is relative and depends on the perspectives of the individual.

Pravin Gordhan has since realised that the country will not prosper without a strong ethical foundation. He needed a country to foster higher standards of financial integrity, strong moral and ethical values. That is why when a Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) was caught in a not so ethical conversation with a young woman during official working hours, he found himself no avenue but only one option of simply resigning. He resigned because he considered the matter from different angles and the personality of his boss, he knew Pravin Gordhan as a man who is stern on matters of personal integrity, uprightness and ethics.

Pravin Gordhan has been the Chairman of the give and take Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). He is the man who was in charge of bringing the Government of National Unity. In order to strike that kind of setup you needed a cool headed personality and integrity; the elements and properties of ethics.

Another issue that occupied Minister Gordhan during his reign as Minister of Finance is how to push the frontiers of economic growth to a sustained higher level, create economic opportunities and reduce poverty in a country that is muttering volcanoes of deepening poverty.

Poverty is what defines the majority of people in South Africa. We can see these in the violent national service delivery protests all over the country. The people participating in these mass movement service delivery protests now experienced in most parts of the country are not shopping for sympathy or indulged in showmanship, as some will want to explain them away.

Poverty as we all know is the breeding ground of all manner of anti-social behaviour such as criminality. Aristotle the great ancient philosopher understood all these when he reasoned that “Poverty is the mother of revolutions and crime”.

But though Pravin Gordham means well and he is a good man, he lacks natural connections. He is a man who seems to believe that a reasonable well thought plan will automatically get you a buy in simply on its merit that it is a good plan for the common good. But unfortunately not all of us see the world in that utility manner – sometimes people are purely and simply motivated by base personal motives at the expense of the common good. Some people believe that the world is a jungle, where dog eat dog, where fraud, corruption, deception, subterfuge reigns supreme.

So take all these perspectives into consideration this budget speech will have two key issues from page one to the last page:

The first will be laying down strategies and allocations that seeks to remove wastes and non-priority expenditure across government; and secondly will be spreading the funds around with the purpose of creating economic opportunities and reduce poverty

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