The Week Ahead: Mini-budget, Debates & Hearings top the agenda

22-10-2018

An eclectic week of parliamentary action beckons in the main chambers and Committee corridor.

The highlights include the mini-Budget, important debates, legislative business and high-profile Committee hearings.

All eyes will be on the new Minister of Finance when he delivers the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday. The MTBPS outlines the economic context against which the 2019 budget is being formulated and sets out the spending framework for the next three years. It is an opportunity for government to modify expenditure and revenue patterns so that delivery is accelerated. The Minister has a tough job to do as he seeks to stimulate the economy, contain expenditure and satisfy ratings agencies. All of this must be achieved against a background of a recession, low growth, high unemployment, increasing government debt to GDP, failing SOEs, high fuel prices, a growing public sector wage bill, extreme inequality and growing pressure from the public. Under the current economic conditions, government will have to do more with less.

The Finance Minister is expected to give more details on the review of zero-rated items, steps to strengthen public finance management, and the recently announced economic stimulus package.

In addition, he is likely to revise National Treasury’s growth projection downwards. With so much at stake, the markets and South Africans will be watching to see what balancing act the Minister achieves.

The other excitement will be the debate on Tuesday on the VBS Mutual Bank Report titled “The Great Bank Heist”. According to the SA Reserve Bank, almost R2 billion was looted from VBS, implicating top politicians and businessmen. In a media statement, the ANC says it “saw it prudent to bring this matter of public importance, affecting the most vulnerable of our people...” The fallout has been significant sparking legal challenges, a potential parliamentary inquiry and service delivery challenges in the affected municipalities.

Beyond this, the NA chamber is set to pass a few Bills, international instruments and Committee reports.

Elsewhere, the NCOP has schedule two sittings. On Tuesday, it has scheduled a debate on International Day of Rural Women under the theme: “The Time is Now: Improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. On Thursday, the upper House will debate the high unemployment rate in South Africa and ways of turning the tide by growing the economy and creating jobs

There’s lots of action in Committee-land. Legislation, mega-important spending decisions and headline-grabbing hearings dominate the Committee corridor. Here is a run down of the highlights:

The budget theme starts on Tuesday when the Joint Appropriations and Finance Committees receive a pre-MTBPS briefing from the Parliamentary Budget Office. The PBO is supposed to provide independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals ahead of the speech. (Tuesday)

8 municipalities in Limpopo invested R1.2 billion in VBS Bank. This was in violation of the Public Finance Management Act, which does not permit depositing public funds into a mutual bank. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will brief the oversight committee on the municipalities affected by this. (Tuesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Communications will get a briefing from the ICASA on the Sports Broadcasting Regulations. This has been a sore point for the public broadcaster as it grapples to fulfil its mandate with depleted funding. (Tuesday)

Public hearings on the Draft Integrated Resource Plan resume this week. (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday)

Last month, the Police Committee received a briefing on the annual crime statistics. It will engage with relevant role-players like Stats SA, Academic Civil Society, CSPS and SAPS to analyse these statistics. (Wednesday)

Earlier this year, mining companies in the gold sector reached a historic agreement with mineworkers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis. Lawmakers will get an update on the settlement. (Wednesday)

Bucket Eradication and Acid Mine Drainage will be in the spotlight when the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation meets with the Department. (Wednesday)

After stalling a few times, the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises has again scheduled a meeting to consider the first draft of the Eskom inquiry report. (Wednesday)

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee has scheduled additional hearings on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow for expropriation of land without compensation. (Thursday and Friday)

MPs sitting on the Standing Committee on Appropriations, Select Committee on Appropriations, Standing Committee on Finance and Select Committee on Finance will be able to interrogate the Minister of Finance after he briefs them on the MTBPS. (Thursday)

In between, there's some important law-making afoot as MPs consider the following bills: iKamva Bill; Electoral Amendment; Electoral Laws Amendment Bill; Regulations on the Public Audit Amendment Bill; National Health Laboratory Services Amendment Bill; National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill; National Gambling Amendment Bill; National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill; Small Enterprise Ombud Service Bill; Customary Initiation Bill; Films and Publication Amendment Bill and Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Bill.

 View the full schedule here.

*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.

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"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.

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