By ZINE GEORGE and ZINGISA MVUMVU
The province must brace itself for tough times ahead as the provincial budget has been cut by R10.14-billion over the last three years.
Despite the cuts, Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo committed the provincial government to spending more than R2-billion this financial year alone for the creation of 49000 job opportunities as part of the Extended Public Works Programme.
The amount would also be used to train and upgrade 240 emerging contractors.
He also announced that R92.6-million would be set aside to create hundreds more jobs for road rangers and support carwash projects, while an additional R143.7-million has been earmarked to upskill 136 unemployed youths.
Somyo was tabling his 2017-18 budget speech in an economic environment he said was being affected by “uncertain and slow” global economic recovery.
He said the country’s economy was being negatively affected by low levels of investor confidence and “structural bottlenecks that inhibit private sector committing to invest and produce at higher levels”.
Somyo said the top-slicing of the provincial budget had also been influenced by latest census data, a need for more funding for infrastructure, and pressure on the government from tertiary students to inject more funding into education.
The rand was also under pressure, and drought had added a further negative effect.
“The province has lost a total of R10.146-billion of the provincial equitable share since the 2013 MTEF [medium-term expenditure framework].
“Reductions of R9.765-billion include the funding of infrastructure, government pressures such as tertiary institution funding, drought experienced in the country and the pressure on the rand,” Somyo said.
Education and health departments continue to receive the lion’s share of the budget, with the Zwelitsha-based education department set to receive R32.98-billion while health will receive R21.7-billion.
The new budget kicks in from April 1.
The roads and public works department, provincial nerve centre for infrastructure planning and coordination, is to receive R15.5-billion in the MTEF over the the next three years, of which R2.3-billion would be used in the 2017-18 financial year to revive and revamp rural roads which mainly lead to hospitals and schools.
Somyo said R90-million of this year’s budget “is allocated for fixing damaged roads and bridges”.
Other projects which received major cash boosts include R694.9-million in the MTEF to revamp the internet network in the Bhisho precinct and at major hospitals, with R218.2-million being spent on broadband in the financial year beginning next month.
Addressing the media before tabling the budget in the legislature, Somyo said beefing up broadband in the province’s capital was long overdue and “will surely be value for money”.
“ICT systems are now at the heart of government processes as this provides a wide variety of benefits including more efficiency and increased transparency.
“This initiative will connect all provincial public offices inclusive of healthcare institutions and education institutions with high-speed data, voice, video and internet services,” said Somyo.
Agriculture-focused MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane was all smiles yesterday as his department saw its medium-term budget receive an additional R450-million.
Qoboshiyane’s rural development and agrarian reform department’s budget includes:
lR506-million for food security. Part of the funds will be injected to commercialise small-scale farmers, especially those in rural areas, while R67.3-million of the budget will assist emerging farmers improve their crop production and support their efforts to sell their products;
lA new rural enterprise development hub at a cost of R14.5-million will be established in Tshabo village near Berlin;
lR15-million to resuscitate Magwa and Majola tea estates; and
lR248-million to revitalise agricultural colleges such as Fort Cox in Middledrift, and to revive dilapidated irrigation schemes.