Speech by Greg Schneemann during the debate on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement

18 November 2008

Madam Speaker



Honourable Members

The spending projections contained in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement continue to build on the commitments which the ANC has made to create work and fight poverty and to make local government work better.

It also sets out the context and direction of policy which enables departments to plan and budget for the next three years. If departments do this, there should be no reason for under expenditure and not meeting targets.

Some of the main priorities of the MTBPS are:

Improving the quality of education, strengthening the public health system and investing in built environment infrastructure which will take us closer to achieving access for all to water, sanitation, electricity, housing and public transport

These spending projections over the MTEF, determined by this ANC Led Government, move us closer towards achieving the goals and objectives of the Freedom Charter. They also clearly demonstrate the continued commitment of the ANC to the Freedom Charter and ensure that the aspirations of those who gathered in Kliptown on the 26 June 1955 are realised.

We in the ANC join those who were at Kliptown in 1955 when they said:

"And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won."

"Let all people who love their people and their country now say, as we say here:

These freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty."

In particular allocations are made which strengthen the following clauses of the Freedom Charter:

"The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those Who Work It"
This is demonstrated through the priority which government has placed on the redistribution of land.

"The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall Be Opened"
No fee schools are being expanded, new schools are being built and old infrastructure continues to be upgraded.

"There Shall Be Houses, Security and Comfort"
Over 2.6 million houses have been built.

We have no doubt that our government continues to put the people of South Africa first and prioritises spending that will create a better life for all.

The Joint Budget Committee held hearings on the MTBPS and interacted with the Departments of Housing, Transport and Education amongst others as well as the Human Sciences Research Council.

Spending on housing over the MTEF period will see R 44.7 billion allocated through the Integrated Housing and Human Settlement Grant.

The JBC welcomes the increased allocation and is confident that this will help to accelerate housing delivery and a reduction in the housing backlog.

However, there will have to be greater co-ordination between all relevant departments so that as housing projects are planned, so to is the necessary infrastructure such as police stations, schools, clinics and recreational facilities. This means that departments must talk to each other, plan together and budget together. The days of working in a silo approach must come to an end.

A point of concern is whether sufficient funds are allocated towards the eradication of informal settlements by 2014. The DOH indicated that with current allocations over the MTEF, they may not be able to meet this target. Together with National Treasury, they will need to prioritise both financial and human resources to ensure that this target is met.

With the continued rise in the cost of building materials, more emphasis should be placed on using alternative construction methods such as those which have been showcased at the Eric Morobi Housing Innovation Hub in Tshwane. Many of these methods provide a house which is cheaper to construct, bigger in size and of sound quality.

The increased allocations for school infrastructure which will improve existing facilities with priority to the provision of libraries, sports fields, laboratories, grade R classrooms and infrastructure for learners with special needs is welcomed.

Funding should not only be provided for the provision of facilities but must also provide the resources so that these facilities achieve the results which they are meant to.

Well resourced libraries will help to improve the reading skills and knowledge of our children. Sports equipment will help to produce sporting stars of the future. Laboratories with the correct equipment will produce scientists.

One of the disturbing facts that were presented to the JBC during its interaction with Education, Health and the HSRC was the number of schools and clinics without access to sanitation and water despite considerable achievements having been made in the provision of these services.

Tomorrow is World Sanitation Day, but children in 1532 schools or 6% of our schools still wait to celebrate. Therefore the JBC calls on the DOE, DOH, DWAF and all other related departments to work together to ensure that by the end of the 2009/ 2010 financial year which is the first year of the MTEF, that no school or clinic is without sanitation.

We have also taken note that there are increased allocations for the provision of water at schools and clinics. Again the JBC calls on all related departments to take the necessary steps to speed up the provision of water to schools and clinics that do not have access.

The MTBPS provides funding for promoting energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy sources. Serious and urgent consideration should be given to the use of alternative forms of energy such as solar power in those schools and clinics which do not have access to conventional forms of electricity.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has been an effective policy measure with many students being able to further their studies. Through continuous evaluation, the DOE should ensure that the intended target groups do indeed receive this much needed funding.

The employing of more teachers will not only reduce learner / educator ratios, but will also improve the quality of learning, teaching and results.

The establishment of a unit to evaluate school and teacher performance is welcomed although it is not clear on what funding will be provided. More clarity will be required in this regard.

The JBC was informed that one of the contributors to absenteeism in certain schools is due to transport challenges. Both the DOT and DOE need work closely together to ensure that reliable and efficient transport is provided. There is a need to clarify who is best placed and responsible to perform this function.

The school nutrition program provides much needed and often the only form of sustenance to learners and is to be extended to all secondary quintiles 1, 2 & 3 schools. More work needs to be done to ensure that sufficient budget allocations are made.

In addition, civil society needs to work with government to address the home conditions of many school children as one often hears of children fainting and arriving hungry at school. More often, the co-ordination resources could go a long way to addressing this.

We were particularly pleased to hear that some 6000 schools have established food gardens which will go a long way in trying to help families who are battling to access sufficient nutrition.

Significant allocations are made for the provision of public transport infrastructure although much of these funds will go to 2010 FIFA World Cup host cities. It is important to ensure that our people experience the benefit of safe, affordable and reliable public transport.

The JBC is concerned at the deficiencies in the funding model for the Road Accident Fund and has therefore requested that the DOT report to the committee on what measures have and will be taken and when these will be implemented.

Throughout the hearings and in fact over the past 4 years, an area that has become increasingly evident to the JBC is that there is insufficient interdepartmental, co-ordination, co-operation, planning and budgeting. Under expenditure is often related to poor planning and budgeting.

We therefore fully support the recent Alliance Economic Summit Statement on the need for a high level planning, evaluation and monitoring capacity in government and the proposed planning commission which would ensure the alignment of the work of all government departments.

The Freedom Charter belongs to all South Africans who embrace it. I would call on all South Africans to register to vote, to vote in 2009 for and join the ANC in realising the dreams and hopes of all the people who gathered in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

Together with the ANC we will create a better life for all South Africans.

I thank you!