||27 February 2011 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
It's been a rough year for many South Africans... jobs have been lost and money has been tight.
High school teacher, Nozuko Zide, says her personal budget has been stretched way over the limit.
Nozuko Zide (high school teacher): "Every time I do the budget I go over the salary and I end up having gaps in between for whatever I budgeted for the month. And, you know, it's always not enough."
Spare a thought for the national budget then - a massive juggling act where the finance minister is expected to please everyone.
This week, his speech was described as cautious, balanced and aimed at creating stability - with jobs right up there as the number one priority.
Pravin Gordhan (Minister of Finance): "We must offer young work-seekers real hope where at present there is despair. We need to do things differently, as the President often urges us. We need to have the courage to pilot new approaches and build new partnerships, promoting innovation throughout our economy."
In a country where nearly half of our young people are unemployed, the focus on jobs came as no surprise.
Chantal Rutter (Carte Blanche presenter): "Jobs, jobs and more jobs - a major element of the finance minister's speech and pivotal to people in this community, where works is scarce."
Gordhan's goal is being carried out on a small scale by Roche van Wyk through his skills centre, Learn to Earn. Students study everything from graphic design to computer skills and sewing. Roche is all for the jobs focus and says a holistic approach has worked for him.
Roche van Wyk (Learn to Earn): "We've taken the risk of employing somebody, we've prepared them for the place of employment, they've been through life skills, they've also got a basic business understanding, they've got a basic understanding of the labour law - what's expected of them, but also what employer can expect from them and what is their responsibility."
A combination of skills training and placing over 80% of his students in jobs has been lauded as an excellent model.
Billions have been set aside for job creation, investing in manufacturing and employing young people, with another R9.5-billion earmarked for skills development.
As a partner in a leading auditing firm, Ruth Benjamin-Swales says companies like hers would be happy to work with the government on these kinds of initiatives.
Ruth Benjamin-Swales (Assurance Partner: Ernst & Young): "It makes us part of providing a solution. And it is a sustainable solution - which is what they were speaking to - as opposed to a grant or a handout. It creates an opportunity to employ people, to up-skill and equip them, and make them continually participate in the economy."
The details still need to be fleshed out, but Andre Roux, who has followed the budget closely for years, believes it's been carefully crafted.
Andre Roux (Investec Asset Management): [After Budget Speech in Parliament] "What he's doing here is to create a scheme and say: let's give school-leavers... let's give young people a chance to get into the labour market by giving businesses a tax break to employ you. So it's not going to undercut the wages. So he's careful to ensure the unions don't necessarily object to the scheme."
For Ruth, it's been a really positive aspect of the budget.
Ruth: "The thing is not so much how much is going to change. For instance I don't see a significant change in how I go about my daily activity or how much I can spend or not spend, because I haven't seen big changes. But I think it's got to do with mindsets and attitudes and inspiring hope."
Some people trained in Roche's centres could benefit if they get jobs in manufacturing. The sector's been targeted for investment and tax incentives worth R20-billion.
Individual taxpayers will score a little. Tax relief of R8-billion this year will go mainly to people earning lower salaries. Teachers like Nozuko could benefit.
Nozuko: "It makes a difference - whether it's just R100, it makes a difference because you didn't even have that R100."
But it's not expected to plump up her purse much this year.
Pravin: "These adjustments compensate virtually only for the effects of inflation for the coming year."
Squeezed by a tough economic climate, companies brought in less tax than hoped this past year. Individual taxpayers, though, made up for this a little.
Pravin: "Allow me to pay tribute again to the continued support that all of us received from millions of honest taxpayers. Can we applaud them please? Their contributions are reflected in the recovery of tax revenue this year. We have been able to expand spending where other nations have been forced into austerity adjustments."
The Finance Minister has decided to plough most of the money into key areas.
Chantal: "Education remains the largest slice of the financial pie. But many argue that they're not getting their money's worth. It's here that accountability will be once again put to the test to see how wisely the money is spent."
There are a lot of money worries about education: rundown buildings, a shortage of textbooks, no labs, libraries and sports fields in many schools. And too few teachers, as Nozuko has experienced.
Nozuko: "There are a lot of teachers on contract. In my school - Joe Slovo - there are about six classes staying without a teacher since January because there are no teachers; the government does not want to employ. So I wish for the budget that has been allocated for education, the government will be able to employ teachers permanently."
Much of the government's money will be channelled into trying to fix up the problems in education, but as in many other departments, the biggest chunk will be for salaries. The public service strike led to salaries being hiked last year. The government is tied into a wage agreement for this year.
Pravin: "The public service salary bill has doubled over the past five years, from R156-billion to R314-billion."
Then there are the 15 million people who get government grants. This year, old age State pensions will go up by around only 5%, but the increases for child care grants will be higher. Churches and welfare groups say they should get more.
Nozuko believes it'll at least help a bit in her community.
Nozuko: "There are children here who don't have parents... There are children here, living on their own, who don't even have money to buy bread."
The grants system is wide open to corruption, but Andre believes the Finance Minister has made the right call.
Andre: "He's also said in the budget, 'I'm going to push the child grant a little harder than the old age grant.' And I think that's also the right balance. It's a grant that's so widely distributed throughout South Africa, it targets, if you like, our future investment in the future and it makes sense... the level that it comes in at the moment is still very low - it makes sense to push it a little bit harder."
Flower seller, Poppy Saliem, hasn't ever relied on welfare. She's been selling flowers for close on 50 years.
Poppy Saliem (Flower seller): "We're born into it. That is one thing we love. This is our life [flowers]. This is God's greatest creation. We love this; we love doing this."
But Poppy's frustrated. She says officials aren't working hard enough for the people.
Roche also believes it's time for people to be more proactive.
Roche: "We're kind of in a situation where the applicant has to suggest solutions to whatever kind of barrier that is raised. The thing that has worn me down in terms of partnership with government is: I can find lots of people who tell me what we can't do, but I can never find anyone who can tell me what we can do and is willing to actually sign off on it."
Ordinary South Africans keep saying: make things happen.
Andre: "The focus has to be on delivery and that affects every single representative in government, every single government official is responsible. And that's where we need to see the improvement, and that's where the big disappointment lies."
Ruth: "Government needs to hold officials accountable and actions need to be taken in a very clear and decisive manner."
South Africans are keen to see departments put every cent they're given to good use.
Chantal: "Lavish lifestyles - something that's become synonymous with several politicians. Well this budget does touch on tender-rigging and corruption, two issues which have people on the street feeling both disillusioned and cheated."
Poppy: "These people are stealing millions. So that money they put in charge with that one, this one's taking his 'piece', that one's taking his 'piece' and so it goes..."
Inside Parliament, the Finance Minister's announced ways he'll crack down on tender-rigging and procurement - and he's called on South Africans to help.
Pravin: "We have a shared responsibility to prevent corruption, as we have said, and we call on all citizens to blow the whistle on corruption and to report any procurement irregularities to the relevant authorities."
It's not surprising Pravin Gordhan is concerned.
Andre: "Of course it worries the minister of finance because he is tasked with looking after the finances and makes sure that we spend our money wisely. And to find that you are spending and feeding corrupt practices is very disconcerting for him."
Our people say that making the budget money shine can only work if those who spend it put the country first.
Nozuko: "It's not about getting fat cheques or whatever... You are there to work for the people, and not for yourself. They tend to concentrate on themselves and forget about the people they're working for."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.