The Mpumalanga Provincial Budget Speech tabled on Tuesday by MEC for Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism, Nompumelelo Hlophe evoked mixed feelings.
Though some of budget expectations raised by the DA were addressed, we are very concerned that they once again ignored the plight of our people against the rising cost of living – as no poverty alleviation strategies were provided in the budget. Living in a province where most residents are living within the lower bound poverty line of R810, we expected the budget speech to mention that government will increase the number of people who access food through community development nutrition centres.
The budget speech affirmed a province not capable of sustaining itself on its own collected revenue but heavily dependent on grants Mpumalanga provincial revenue accounts for a mere 4.2%, and the other bulk is 78.5% equitable share and 17.3% conditional grant.
Once again, the ANC cash cow, the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA) was allocated R18 million to ‘improve their loan book and renovate some of the factories they own’. But knowing MEGA’s history, this R18 million is going to be a waste of taxpayers’ money as it is likely to be siphoned and end up in the pockets of Comrades through corruption.
However, the DA applauds the fact that R13 million was set aside for the employment of health specialists, as well as the R10 million that was set aside towards a neo natal unit in Witbank Hospital. The DA is skeptical that these appointments and projects will be successfully implemented because of lack of leadership from Health MEC, Sasekani Manzini.
The DA also welcomes the R1 184 469 000 set aside towards schools’ infrastructure; the R404 254 000 set towards the learner, teacher supply materials (LTSM); and the R84 685 000 towards school nutrition. We also hope that the Provincial Department of Education is able to spend their infrastructure budget in this financial year. The DA is pleased that MEC Hlophe headed our call for money to be set aside for LTSM.
The DA is extremely concerned about the R90 million allocated to the completion and operationalization of the Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market as for years and on many occasions – we have been told it is nearing completion, but never has.
The finance MEC once again heeded the DA’s call and allocated R18 million to the revitalization of our parks. We also welcome the R12 million set aside to build recreational facilities at Swaartfontein and Nkangala treatment centres.
Most importantly, the DA welcomes the more than R5.4 billion which was budgeted for the Department of Public Works, Roads, & Transport (PWRT). We hope, amongst other things, a portion of this money will be used to rehabilitate, fix and maintain the following projects: fixing the P57/2 road in Thaba Chweu, upgrading the D4407 and 4416 in Bushbuckridge, and the D481 in Chief Albert Luthuli.
To sustain and create jobs, the DA hopes that a portion of the money allocated to the department of PWRT will be used to rightfully rehabilitate all the coal haulages and tourism routes across the province, especially the Panorama Route, which has the most tourist destinations of Mpumalanga, including the Kruger National Park and God’s Window. Mining and tourism are the two biggest employers in the province, so it would be wise to invest more money in infrastructure associated with those sectors.