By ZINE GEORGE and ZINGISA MVUMVU
National Treasury head Lungisa Fuzile says the Eastern Cape’s R74-billion budget for the 2017-18 financial year which starts in April, “is a helluva lot of money. The key is going to be how efficiently we are going to use it”.
Fuzile was addressing a business breakfast yesterday hosted by provincial treasury MEC Sakhumzi Somyo to review the budget speech the MEC tabled on Thursday.
The province’s slice has been cut by R10.14-billion over the last three years.
Mqanduli-born Fuzile singled out the huge budget slice the department of education continues to enjoy both nationally and provincially.
Education received 46% of the R74-billion budget, which would see MEC Mandla Makupula overseeing R32.98-billion, the lion’s share compared to any other department in the province.
Fuzile said: “There are more resources being pumped into education compared to our times under the Transkei regime, but it gave better education. The outcomes are sometimes poorer than then.”
The province has been at the bottom of the national matric class for the past five years.
Fuzile said: “I sometimes put the blame squarely on the door of teachers. They must be told that we won’t tolerate people who do not want to do the work they are paid to do.
“We must learn to do more with less. Try and make sure that we choose the areas where for every rand that you put in, the impact is the biggest,” he added.
The former teacher said he was issuing these warnings because the state of the global economy was not great.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to improve dramatically anytime soon, by the way,” Fuzile said.
He cited four major issues which impacted on the country’s economic downward spiral. These were:
lCommodity prices had fallen considerably.
lThe protracted and severe drought in the past few years;
lThe energy supply crises since 2007-8 when electricity became a serious constraint to growth; as well as
lVery unstable industrial relations.
Fuzile issued yet another warning, saying SA may be shooting itself in the foot.
“We may be our own [worst] enemy. And we have to admit to it. It may be painful.
“The energy situation was our energy crisis. The industrial relations was our industrial relations problem. So you can see where I am coming from when I say we may have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves tough questions and answer them decisively,” he added.
Fuzile also cautioned the province to tread carefully with its new policy of 30% of tenders for local businesses.
If over-zealously implemented, this policy had the potential to backfire by isolating and confining Eastern Cape business people from only doing business in their province.
Said Fuzile: “Eastern Cape businesses must go and seize business opportunities wherever business happens because if you you get too regional in orientation and outlook, you run a risk of Eastern Cape business being blocked from competing with other businesses elsewhere outside the Eastern Cape and then you will have a very undesirable situation.