Source: National Treasure

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is opposed to budget cuts on public services, local government, higher education and state owned enterprises (SOEs). We expect the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, to stop the austerity programme.

Cutting expenditure on public services has led to infrastructure backlog in schools, hospitals, clinics and correctional service centres and prevented these institutions from procuring necessary variable goods such as pharmaceutical products, learning and teaching materials. It has also impacted on the headcount in public services, where the reduction in public servants has led to a widening public servant to population ratio.

In the sphere of production, the defunding of SOEs has led to their virtual failure, with many at the brink of absolute collapse. For instance, Eskom has been bungled to the point it cannot supply electricity uninterruptedly to the people. The consequence of this gradual collapse of Eskom through corruption, aided by fiscal austerity, has led to accelerated plans to privatise energy provision. The neoliberal hawks are further pressuring the National Treasury to defund all SOEs including SA Post Office, Denel and Transnet.

Meanwhile, the higher education sector is given insufficient budget which has to be divided between supporting students from poor families, building infrastructure and modernising equipment at universities and colleges. Illustrated in the recent bout of protests, there is a chronic shortage of academic spaces in higher education institutions which continuously leads to academic exclusions. And the fact that NSFAS cannot fund everyone who applies for financial assistance, means that many students are financially excluded.

SAFTU demands the following:

  • Increase the redistribution features of tax policy such as corporate tax; introduce a luxury goods tax; introduce a tax category for the super-rich.
  • Stop illicit cash outflows and tax dodging schemes.
  • Finance housing, sanitation and infrastructure development in communities. 
  • Reduce consumer tax on basic requirements such VAT and PAYEE.
  • Encourage savings through provident funds and enable the workers to access a portion of their pensions for personal use before retirement. Thus, we support the Two-pot retirement.
  • Public works programme on decent wage. Besides passing skills, EPWP was developed to also handle infrastructure development and maintenance. 
  • Stop government officials and business from looting up to 40% of the procurement budget.
  • Lower interest rates on government bonds to disincentivise capitalists from packing their money in financial assets instead of investing in productive sectors
  • Health care for all, and to this end we support the National Health Insurance, with special appeal to strengthen efficiency, good governance and preventing corruption that may collapse it. Money must be made available to ensure NHI is not starved off resources and lead to eventual re-privatisation and lack of access.
  • Ensure quality basic education for our children. Procure learning and support material for schools, prioritising foundation phase so that we can curb the problem of 80% of Grade 4 learners who cannot read for a meaning. Libraries, maths laboratories, natural science and computer laboratories must be built for each and every school.
  • Increase the public service headcount and stop intermittent freezing of posts so that public institutions will not be understaffed. Posts that become vacant must be filled immediately.
  • Ramp up infrastructure for all public institutions so that they are not overcrowded. Stop reprioritising money meant for infrastructure backlogs to other areas of spending because of fiscal consolidation
  • Stop privatisation under the pretext that financing for these SOEs must be raised in capital markets. 
  • Invest in all SOEs. This is not a burden as is made out to be.
  • Governance and management must be improved. Harsh punitive measures must be taken against the mismanagement of the SOEs by management and board members.
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