21 Feb

UASA Media Release: 21 February 2024

Image source: @Treasury_RSA from X.

Statement by Abigail Moyo, spokesperson of the trade union UASA:

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s National Budget Speech offered good and bad considering the current economic outlook where workers remain in a financial depression battling the cost of living.
The good
General fuel levy. We are pleased with the minister’s mindfulness of the high cost of living and the impact of fuel price increases on food and transport costs. The proposal not to increase the general fuel levy for 2024/25 will bring tax relief and put some money back in cash-strapped consumers’ pockets.
Metrorail. The rail recovery programme of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) will hopefully lead to a reliable transport system. The plan includes increasing Metrorail passengers from 15,6 million in 2022/23 to 48.6 million by 2026/27.
Climate change. UASA welcomes the US$3,3 billion that has so far been raised to support climate change, energy and just transition objectives. We trust that this is the start to the end of the energy crisis and other challenges that caused the economic disaster we live with.
Pension savings. The progress made on the two-pot retirement system, which will allow the first cash withdrawals from 1 September 2024, should benefit workers in need of cash for emergencies and household plans.
Health and education. The notable budget allocations to the education and health sector are a welcome decision.

The bad
Job creation. The provision for “key initiatives aimed at job creation” is welcome but vague. What are those initiatives, and what will they entail? Funds are allocated towards job creation annually, but South Africans still face an all-time high unemployment rate. From the R61,4 billion allocated to employment programmes, will the R7,4 billion going to the Presidential Employment Initiative finance more unsustainable short-term employment schemes? UASA reminds Godongwana of the almost 5 million unemployed youth and the staggering 32.1% unemployment rate keeping them from leading fruitful lives.
State-owned companies. More plans to assist Eskom and Transnet remain an obstacle to economic growth. How often have these entities been thrown financial life buoys without a tangible return on investment? We do take note of the conditions attached to the guarantees and want to believe that sustainability and stability within the entities will improve.
Municipal disaster recovery grant. UASA is concerned about the additional R1,4 billion allocated to the Municipal Disaster Recovery Grant. Municipalities collect tariffs from consumers every month, with annual increases always included; however, citizens receive the bare minimum of service delivery without fail. It’s time for the government to attach conditions to municipal bailouts, too.
Gross domestic product. The estimated real GDP growth of 0,6% in 2023, down from 0,8 % estimated during the 2023 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, doesn’t bring us joy. It shows our woes are far from over. We need strategies aligned with the growth and development of our economy.
Overall, we look forward to a year of recovery and development.

For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Abigail Moyo at 065 170 0162.

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