Manuel's address - The Highlights
By Mikhaila Crowie
11 February 2009
The National Budget speech has become one of the most anticipated speeches in our country. This year is no exception. The world has experienced its worst economic downturn and politicians, economists and the ordinary person on the street waited with bated breath for today’s Budget address by Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel.
A lot has changed since last year’s speech. In September we saw the swearing in of President Kgalema Motlanthe and this year also saw Nhlanhla Nene taking up the vacant seat of Deputy Minister of Finance.
Manuel’s speech is framed by five principles, namely: Protecting the poor, sustaining employment growth and expanding training opportunities, building economic capacities and promoting investment, limiting an equitable sharing of opportunities and maintaining a sustainable debt level.
Manuel’s opening focused entirely on the global economic crisis, noting the series of shocks our country’s producers faced. These included electricity shortages, high interest rate and the slowing demand rate. Manuel also touched on the automobile industry crisis, which faces the cruel reality of job losses.
The Education sector remains the largest investment. A new salary dispensation was introduced last year. This is based on the school and teacher performance. Manuel said there was an urgent need to re-evaluate this policy.
One of the priorities in the education sector was to extend the no-fee schools policy to 60% this year. This has increased, since the present rate is 40%. R45 billion has been allocated to all nine provinces to improve education, the health sector and the infrastructure of the roads.
Last year, provinces have budgeted over R18 billion on school infrastructure and equipment, in order to eradicate unsafe schools.
A further R12 billion has been spent on the social grants while housing, water, sanitation and municipal services received R10.9 billion.
R5.4 billion has been allocated for the criminal justice system while a further R6.4 billion is being provided for the public transport sector, national roads and rail infrastructure.
Manuel emphasised that meeting the needs of the people of our country will be tough indeed but said if we all work as a collective and not waste money but rather work together for an economic recovery.