Medium Term Budget Policy Statement: discussion

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Finance Standing Committee

31 October 2000
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Meeting report

FINANCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 November 2000
MEDIUM TERM BUDGET POLICY STATEMENT: DISCUSSION AND IDASA SUBMISSION

Documents handed out
Idasa's Response to the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement [see Appendix 1]

SUMMARY
Slight adjustments to the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill were outlined.

The committee questioned National Treasury about various aspects of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement particularly about adjustments for HIV/AIDS. Treasury stated that it experiences problems gaining information on what government needs to spend on HIV/AIDS because hospitals do not provide the necessary information.

Idasa noted that the Treasury says that the increase in imports and exports and the increased foreign and domestic investment will increase the growth of the economy. Idasa believes that this growth projection is unrealistic because the factors which are intended to drive economic performance have not performed in the past.

MINUTES
Changes to Revenue Laws Amendment Bill
Mr Kosie Louw of SARS advised the committee of ''slight adjustments'' to the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill:
- Changes have been made to the 183 day rule clause (where person is absent from SA for a time).
- Clause 9(e) was also changed slightly.
- There are also one or two other issues which require more consideration. These are slight adjustments. They were not discussed, simply noted.

Mr Louw said that the changes they have made are not significant but only slight. SARS feels comfortable that the Bill has the fundamentals in place.

There are also some slight adjustments to amendments to clauses not in the Income Tax Act, namely:
- The definition of spouse in the Estate Duty Act. They are going to revisit this definition by taking constitutional advice on it.
- The Customs and Excise Act amendment has been slightly changed by the law advisors. Mr Louw said the changes were ''not fundamental''.

The Chairperson read the Report and the Committee agreed to it.

Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS)
The Chairperson noted that the committee should schedule hearings on the MTBPS for mid-January next year. The process thus far had not been transparent enough.

National Treasury had made a presentation on the MTBPS to the committee in a closed meeting the previous day. Ms Maria Ramos and Mr Andrew Donaldson of National Treasury were present to discuss the document with the committee.

Discussion
Mr Andrew (DP) referred to Table 5.1 of the MTBPS which sets out the consolidated national and provincial expenditure by type of service. He commented that the categories were broad and that there was no detail on where the money went. He referred to the figure on ''infrastructure spending'' for example and asked on what this money was actually spent. Further, he asked which factors were going to change to result in the growth requirements that the economy needs.

Mr Donaldson said that Table 5.1 is a summarised and a simple classification. It does not go through the detail of all the programs, it simply separates the main programs. There is not sufficient information to put in a more detailed functional classification. The Budget Review gives more detail. The infrastructure figures in the table relate to the broad consolidation of spending. Infrastructure relates to things like operating subsidies for schemes. These are not classified as capital expenditure because they ''maintain''.

Ms Ramos replied that they need maximum levels of growth to deal with things like unemployment. However they cannot make projections that are not likely to happen, they have to be realistic with their projections. Growth is constrained by things like the country's ability or inability to attract foreign investment. This is in turn influenced by domestic and international happenings. A stable fiscal policy and stable economic conditions are necessary to attract domestic and foreign investment. Government is reducing tax rates. This is one way for the system to contribute to a more robust environment. There are things in the pipeline which will also contribute strongly to growth, for example the Initial Public Offering of Telkom. This will contribute positively to investment. They believe that Treasury's set of economic policies will result in sustainable growth. Such growth will occur in the medium to long term. Five to six percent growth levels are needed. Perhaps the Ministry should look at what else they can do to get the investment the economy needs but investment and infrastructure will help growth.

Mr Feinstein (ANC) asked where the extra spending in respect of the defence procurement was reflected. Is it reflected against the defence budget or elsewhere?

Mr Donaldson replied that it is reflected in the defence budget. He added that an export credit facility is associated with the defence procurement. The export credit facility is not reflected on defence, it is reflected on the debt service cost of Treasury together with debt repayments and interest. [The export credit facility is a government guaranteed loan by a bank to a manufacturer. The bank loan has repayment terms attached to it].

Professor Turok (ANC) asked:
- for an explanation as to why the public service borrowing requirement experienced a sharp increase and then a decline (Table 3.8 in the MTBPS)
- if human resource development and infrastructure were the two main focus points of the budget, then why did social services spending decline compared to economic services for example?
- he referred to an article he read in Business Day (dated 24 October 2000) where a survey conducted found that SA executives have more spending power than their European counterparts. He asked [sarcastically] if this was the reason why Treasury designed tax cuts for executives?

Ms Ramos said that there were various reasons for the increase and then the decline in the public service borrowing requirement. In 1998/99 for example parastatals borrowed less. Provinces also ran surpluses and they repaid their debts. On the second question she replied that government has to invest in economic services. This investment does not reflect a cut in social services. They must be able to put money into both sectors. Social services spending should increase over the projected inflation for the next three years. Mr Donaldson added that social services will grow in real terms (compared to the 5.2% inflation).

On Professor Turok's final question, Ms Ramos replied that the Ministry does not design tax cuts for high network individuals. They want to reduce tax for middle and lower income people. However they cannot artificially pick this group. They tax across the Board and all are affected. Perhaps SA firms should look at what they are paying executives. The tax relief government provides is also for SMMEs and for middle and low income groups.

The Chairperson asked about the amount which had been allocated to each Department for spending on HIV/AIDS.

Ms Ramos said that this was allocated to deal with the awareness campaign. When the February budget is tabled there will be a better account of how the money is to be spent. Mr Donaldson said that the allocations for special programs are still underway. It is not easy to get information about the services distributed to HIV/AIDS patients because hospitals do not release information on this on the grounds of protecting the patient confidentiality. Thus, gaining information on what government needs to spend on HIVAIDS is not an easy undertaking.

Mr Durr (ACDP, Western Cape) asked what techniques they were applying to ensure that there was capacity, delivery and value for money.

Ms Ramos replied that there was a collective responsibility to ensure that the money was spent effectively. Often they budgeted for infrastructure spending and the money was not spent. The planning phase is very important. Ultimately Cabinet and the Finance Committee must monitor to ensure the spending took place. Bringing together the National Expenditure Survey and the White Book was part of this process. Developments around public and private partnerships is helping them to think through projects more carefully.

Professor Turok commented that it seemed as though the planning was ''post-hoc'' to the money becoming available. The planning is supposed to begin before the money becomes available. The way it was now they were building infrastructure for the purpose of spending the money. They should be building infrastructure to serve the needs of people.

Ms Ramos replied that people feel that they cannot plan projects unless they know that there is going to be money for it. They were trying to shift from this culture. Capacity is a problem and in three years from now capacity will still be a problem. The problem cannot be solved overnight.

In response to a question by Mr Leeuw (ANC) on the Umsobomvu Fund, the National Development Agency and public private partnerships, Ms Ramos said that the Umsobomvu Fund has been established as a section 21 company. They are now outside of the Treasury. They also have their own board. The National Development Agency also has its own board. Treasury does not know what they are spending money on. If the committee wants to know about this they should call the NDA in.
Mr Donaldson said that there is a public document on how public private partnerships (PPP) will be regulated. A detailed set of guidelines and regulations are available. The PPP is a complex and long-term contract. The regulation aims at:
- value for money in the PPP
- that government can afford the costs
- there is a risk transfer requirement (a genuine advantage in that the partner must take on some of the risks)

Ms Mahlangu (ANC) noted that the provincial allocations have increased. From which sphere does this money come. What is the impact of funds which have been spent.

Ms Ramos replied that provincial governments share of the total had to adjust marginally. On the impact of projects Mr Donaldson replied that the projects are operational. Many jobs have been created. By now it should show a good effect.

In response to a question by Ms Fubbs (ANC NCOP) Ms Ramos replied that the horizontal formula has been left unchanged. Instead of adjusting the allocations on the basis of new uncertain data, the Budget Council kept the horizontal formula as it was. The fact is that provincial governments do not have the revenue resources of local government. The provincial sphere gets all its money from the national sphere. The national revenue collection is distributed between the three spheres of government. National is not collecting more revenue and then not distributing more to all the spheres of government. National must be careful about revenue collection not being available for policies.

Mr Andrew commented that:
- the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) should have enjoyed higher priority. It has been two years already and they still do not have a draft Bill in Parliament.
- HIV awareness programs are necessary but millions will get sick and die of the disease while health provisions grow marginally in real terms. There is no reflection on a per capita basis. He noted a concern that provinces bear the brunt of the burden in respect of hospitals and clinics. How are provincial health services going to cope with these budgets? The medium term framework is unrealistic.

Mr Donaldson replied that they want to get the MFMA in place as soon as possible. Ms Ramos replied that HIV is a big problem. The problem for them is that they do not know for what hospitals treat people. The information is not readily available. Pressure is building up on the Welfare budget. Adjustments will be made if necessary. The projected allocations are intended to deal with some of the pressure building up. They are working with provinces on the health budget and trying to determine exactly where the pressure has built up and how much more pressure there will be on the budget because of HIV/AIDS. They may have to reprioritise significantly because they ''do [not] know'' this information.

Mr Donaldson said that health spending is an area of social responsibility. They are budgeting for stronger growth in social services. This will mean lower growth in other areas because these are the choices that they face. They must strike a balance.

The Chairperson said that government as a whole does not have an integrated response to HIV. There seems to be partial attempts within the Ministries to try to deal with this. There needs to be more interaction. The budget is under pressure. They will have to make major adjustments to cope with the HIV problem. The Finance Committee can make a recommendation to the Chair of Chairs and try to drive this process. They will ask questions related to the AIDS budget because they cannot ignore this anymore.

IDASA's response to Medium Term Budget Policy Statement
Delegates from IDASA (led by Mr Albert van Zyl) made the presentation.

Summary of presentation
- There is more spending this year. For spending to increase the economy must grow. IDASA believes that the growth expected is unrealistic. The Treasury says that the increase in imports and exports and the increased foreign and domestic investment will increase the growth of the economy. Idasa says that the factors which are intended to drive economic performance have not performed in the past. Therefore the projections are unrealistic.

- There is an increase in infrastructure spending through the grant to provinces. Idasa considers this is a good thing.

- The HIV/AIDS and poverty allocations have been retained. Idasa's concern is that the revenue projections have freed up lots of money. Because there is now extra money, more money should be spent on these issues instead of simply retaining the amount.

The bulk of new HIV/AIDS spending is in existing programs. The provincial share of the revenue decreases. If provincial budgets are hard pressed then it is important to target provincial equitable share at the neediest provinces.

- Efficiency and effectiveness of the social services department is very important. In this sector fundamental changes are necessary. This includes personnel improvements. If personnel spending is constrained then the public service transformation will be delayed longer. This is undesirable.

- It should be easier for civil society to engage with the Budget. There is no real opportunity for public input.

Discussion
Mr Feinstein asked for a comment on import/export projections and the efficiency of spending.

Reply from IDASA: There should be a concerted effort within the government to get to a National Framework Agreement that would speed up the transformation of public service.
Mr Donaldson: Trade projections are line with market expectations. Growth projections are not that sensitive to trade projections. Their impact on growth is through investment, it is indirect. Investment projections take account of the slow- down after the 1998 interest rate increase. In 2000 there was greater increase in export growth. In the next three years export growth will decline. Import growth grows faster on a net basis. The trade sector is not statistically the source of increased growth.

Ms Fubbs said that Minister Manuel had said the day before that he hoped for an increase in exports. She also said that she thought the impact of imports was felt sooner than the impact of exports. She asked for clarity on this.
Mr Donaldson said that there was a strong relationship between increased investment and higher import growth. There was a time lag between the impact [of the imports] and building on capacity.

Dr Koornhof (UDM) asked what the impact of the sharp increase in the public sector borrowing requirement was.
Mr Donaldson replied that 2% of GDP as a borrowing requirement was easily financed. It is lower than the requirement two years ago. It is not expected to raise interest rates in real terms.

Ms Fubbs said that the cost of borrowing even within an acceptable limit would decrease spending elsewhere.
Mr Donaldson replied that the indications are broad.

Mr Andrew noted the Minister's comment the day before that the economy needed a 5% growth rate to impact upon matters such as unemployment. He asked what could be done to achieve this? Is SA trapped in a 3 - 3.5% growth rate scenario?
Reply from IDASA: In the short term it is unlikely that the private sector investment will increase to even 3% on average each year. Government can deal with this by taking a more pro-active stance. Idasa is not sure what can be done. If growth is slower than predicted they could look at a social security net for those people that fall.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1:

IDASA RESPONSE TO THE MEDIUM-TERM BUDGET POLICY STATEMENT

1 NOVEMBER 2000

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (References in brackets to our document)

     

  1. MTBPS 2000 shows a shift in the fiscal policy stance of government from the contractionary trend of the last 3 years to a mild fiscal stimulus for the coming three years. (page 3)
  2.  

     

  3. The projected tax cuts and increases in expenditure depend on the economy growing according to plan. We argue that this is unlikely because of unrealistic export and investment growth projections. (page 3-5)
  4.  

     

  5. On the expenditure side the largest increases are devoted to infrastructure spending. (page 6)
  6.  

     

  7. While government has retained its plans to increase earmarked HIV/AIDS and Poverty Project spending, none of the extra funds available in the fiscal framework are allocated to these priority programs. (page 7)
  8.  

     

  9. The bulk of the money needed to combat HIV/AIDS and poverty will still have to come from health, education and welfare budgets. However these are projected to decline as a share of the budget. (page 7)
  10.  

     

  11. Provincial budgets are also projected to decrease as a share of total non-interest spending. Given the increasing demand for social services, the allocation of additional resources to poorer provinces is crucial. The implementation of parts of the FFC formula would have allowed the government to channel additional funds to poor provinces. Unfortunately the Treasury chose to retain the existing division of revenue formula that is less redistributive. (page 8)
  12.  

     

  13. Given the tight limits of social spending it is not only important to target the available funding to the most needy, but also to spend it better. One of the main factors in improving the efficiency of spending is the quality of personnel spending. It is unclear how the required public service transformation will be achieved given a projected real decline in personnel expenditure in the short term. (page 9-10)
  14.  

     

  15. The process of considering the MTBPS is as important as its content. The Minister of Finance has repeatedly emphasised the need for thorough parliamentary and public engagement with this document. It is therefore unfortunate that the MTBPS will not receive the attention it should. Better planning both by Parliament and the Treasury to maximize engagement is required. (page 10-11)
  16.  


IDASA BUDGET INFORMATION SERVICE

RESPONSE TO THE MEDIUM-TERM BUDGET POLICY STATEMENT 2000

1 NOVEMBER 2000

INTRODUCTION

The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), tabled by the Minister of Finance in parliament on Monday, sets out government's planned fiscal and budgetary policy. In this Budget Brief we respond to both these aspects of the Statement. We first question the accuracy of Governments economic growth projections. Second, we consider the allocative issues in the event that Government's growth projections are met.

FISCAL POLICY

MTBPS 2000 shows a shift in the fiscal policy stance of government from the contractionary trend of the last 3 years to a mild increase in government spending for the coming three years. Expansionary fiscal policy and the simultaneous reductions in taxation are the fruits of the Treasury's efforts to decrease debt service costs and the higher forecasts of economic growth.

While the good news that comes from the statement is to be welcomed, whether the benefits are realized or not depends strongly on the economy performing according to plan. Economic growth is projected to grow by 2.6% for this year and by 3.7% for 2001/02. These optimistic projections depend on continued strong growth in exports and accelerated domestic and international investment.

The predicted growth rate for the medium term, shown in Table 1, is a considerably higher than actual growth in the South African economy over the last couple of years, and higher than predicted in the 2000 Budget.

 

Table 1: GDP growth outcomes and projections, 1997-2003

 

Outcome

1997 1998 1999

Projected

2000 2001 2002 2003

Real GDP growth %

2.5

0.6

1.2

2.4

3.4

3.7

3.3

 

Source: MTBPS, 2000 p 31.

Given our weak growth performance over the past couple of years, it is important to question: Why should we expect the economy to suddenly `take-off'? According to the MTBPS, growth is to be `driven by strong export performance and accelerating investment' (MTBPS, p.13).

The predicted growth in exports and investment growth is considerably stronger than the actual performance of the economy over the last couple of years. This is shown in Table 2 below.

 

Table 2: Export and investment performance, 1997 - 2003, Outcome and Projection

 

Outcome

1997 1998 1999

Projected

2000 2001 2002 2003

Exports

Gross fixed capital formation

5.5

5.2

2.3

4.8

0.0

-6.9

8.9

0.9

6.8

6.3

7.1

7.4

6.7

6.5

 

Source: MTBPS, 2000:31

Export Growth

South Africa's export performance has been improving. Merchandise export volumes grew by 6.8% in the first half of 2000, compared to 2.5% for 1999. The MTBPS argues that this growth has largely been due to strong growth in the global economy - expected to exceed 4% this year - higher world platinum prices and the depreciation of the Rand.

The projected improvement in export performance is unlikely if global growth slows as expected. The MTBPS acknowledges that the continuing increases in the price of oil and the large economic and financial imbalances between the three main currency areas are threatening world economic growth. Of particular concern is the size of the current account deficit in the US balance of payments. An increase in US interest rates may well be required to reduce the deficit which will in turn slow growth in the US and the world economy. The impact of slower global growth will certainly be felt on South African exports given that approximately 13% of our exports are destined for the US market. In the light of the South African Reserve Bank's commitment to containing inflation it is unlikely that we will see any further depreciation of the Rand as a stimulus to exports. Given these arguments, it is unlikely that we will reach the projected levels of export growth.

Increased investment

The capacity for government investment has increased due to improved government savings and the declining public sector borrowing requirement. However, in the spirit of GEAR, it is private investment that has been given the responsibility of leading the expansion in investment spending. Yet, recent trends in foreign private investment, do not promise a sudden inflow of foreign capital:

     

  • In the first half of the year, the capital account recorded a net outflow of $1 billion, or 0.9% of GDP (MTBPS, p.20).
  •  

  • FDI into South Africa has remained relatively stable in 2000 relative to 1999. (Ibid).
  • It is likely that potential foreign investment into South Africa will continue to be adversely affected by the political crisis in Zimbabwe

It also appears that the projected growth rate in domestic private investment may be overly optimistic.

Keeping foreign investment constant (which seems realistic), or even allowing it to increase by 1% in real terms, private domestic investment has to increase by 5.3%. In the light of the trend in private fixed capital formation by the private sector that emerges from the Reserve Bank record of gross fixed capital formation by private enterprises, this projected growth rate seems unrealistic. The trend is shown in Table 3 below.

Table 3: Gross fixed capital formation by private business enterprises at constant 1995 prices

 

1996

1997

1998

1999

Absolute value

R millions

68 255

71 436

69 356

66336

Growth rate

%

 

4.6

2.9

-4.3

 

South African Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin, September 2000:S-117.

The growth assumptions that underpin the MTBPS 2000 are therefore overly optimistic. Instead of relying on the private sector to lead growth, government should be taking a more pro-active stance by investing more itself as a lead for other investment. Foreign and domestic investors want to see that government has the confidence to invest in the South African economy before they commit large sums of money.

While the projected economic growth would appear to be unrealistic in the short term a number of government achievements detailed in the MTBPS may stimulate growth in the longer term. These include:

  • Fiscal deficit reduced to 2.1% of GDP
  • Debt servicing down for first time in 20 years.
  • General government dis-saving reduced to zero
  • Increased infrastructure spending.
  • Inflation targets will be met.

BUDGET POLICY

Substantial additional resources will be available for expenditure if the economic growth targets are indeed realised. In what follows we consider the proposed allocation of resources for the medium term.

On the positive side, the largest increases are directed to infrastructure spending. The Minister announced that this category of spending would increase by R8billion over the next three years. A large part of this expenditure will go provinces to pay for infrastructure backlogs. This is especially crucial given the fact that provincial borrowing, which should be used to boost capital expenditures, may only be permitted from 2002-3 at the earliest (p. 80). An allocation has also been made to repair roads and bridges damaged by the recent floods in the northern provinces. The remainder of these additional funds will go towards maintaining and replacing existing public infrastructure. These are supported by projected increases in general funding to the provinces and the local government equitable share is also projected to increase, although the latter is off a very low base.

Government has also retained its plans to increase earmarked HIV/AIDS and Poverty Project spending over the medium term. The integrated HIV/AIDS allocation will double from R75m to R150m and the Poverty Allocation will increase R1.2bn from to R1.5bn.

However, given the additional funds available in the fiscal framework it is surprising that poverty and HIV/AIDS did not receive additional allocations over and above the projections of the 2000/01 Budget. After-all these are two areas of governments-spending priorities (MTBPS 2000 page 10). Concerns have been raised over whether these two allocations are sufficient to combat the dual evils of HIV/AIDS and poverty in the country.

Special allocations to poverty and HIV/AIDS will fund specific programs but the bulk of the money required to combat HIV/AIDS and poverty will still have to come from health, education and welfare budgets. However social service allocations are projected to decrease from 53.4% to 52.1% as a proportion of total consolidated expenditure (MTBPS 2000 page 66).

The impact of HIV/AIDS will increasingly put a drain on the PROVINCIAL health, welfare and education budgets over the medium term. The welfare budget allocations remain relatively constant as a proportion over the medium term, which does not take into account the increased pressure on social security through increased take-up of entitlements. The health allocation is projected to decrease from 14.5% in 2000/2001 to 14.2% in 2003/2004, while the education allocation will decrease from 27.3% in 2000/01 to 26.3% in 2003/04.

Provincial budgets are also projected to decrease as a share of total non-interest spending. Given this decline and higher demand for social services in the poorer provinces, it is of particular importance that government redistributes funds to these provinces within the provincial share of revenue. The recent Financial and Fiscal Commission recommendations proposed a mechanism that would establish a closer link between demand for services and funding. The implementation of even parts of the FFC formula would have allowed the government to channel more money to poor provinces. Unfortunately the Treasury chose to retain the existing division of revenue formula.

Table 4: Different spheres' share of total of available revenue

 

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

National

40.4%

41.3%

41.1%

40.8%

Provincial

57.6%

56.5%

56.6%

56.7%

Local govt

2.0%

2.2%

2.4%

2.5%

 

Source: MTBPS 2000, table 6.1.

Given the tight limits on social spending it is not only important to target the available funding to the most needy, but also to spend it better. One of the main factors in improving the efficiency of spending is the quality of personnel spending. Personnel expenditure as a percentage of consolidated national and provincial non-interest spending is set to decline marginally over the medium term from 47.4% to 46.8%. This is based on a projected real decline of 0.7% in personnel expenditure in the 2001/02 budget and real growth of 1.2% in the two subsequent years.

Table 5: Real Growth in Consolidated National and Provincial Expenditure by economic type

 

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

Current Expenditure

0.7

1.3

1.3

Personnel

-0.7

1.2

1.2

Transfer Payments

1.1

0.7

1.1

Goods and supplies

4.4

2.3

2.2

Capital Expenditure

27.8

4.8

5.6

Acquisition of Assets

25.7

2.9

2.3

Transfer Payments

29.4

6.1

7.8

Total

3.2

1.7

1.8

 

While the above-inflation increases in personnel spending in 2002/03 and 2003/04 represents a more realistic projection than that of last year's MTBPS, pressures on personnel spending may again spill over into other categories of expenditure. More importantly, however, the effect of constrained personnel spending on the transformation of the public service is of concern.

Pressure on personnel spending has been contained by the fact that the costs of only 9 months of the current public service wage settlement of a 6.5% is provided for in the current financial year (2000/01). The relatively low resultant real growth of 0.02% (against a projected 0%) in personnel expenditure has also been facilitated by further attrition in the numbers employed in the public service.

The negative growth of 0.7% projected for personnel in 2001 is of concern. The only way that a further 3 months of the current wage settlement plus nine months of a new settlement in June/September 2001 will be accommodated is by accelerated reduction of personnel numbers. However, the negotiation of a national framework agreement on the restructuring of the civil service has been taken off the agenda for the 2000 wage talks precisely in order to make a settlement possible.

There are four other factors that will pressure the government wage bill:

     

  • The abolishment of rank and leg promotions will ease some of the pressure on the wage bill. However, these savings will be mopped up by the new remuneration policy.
  •  

     

  • The backlog of rank and leg promotions will be eradicated over the coming four years. This will have a greater impact on some of the poorer provinces.
  •  

     

  • The exemption from Sunday and overtime pay for the public sector in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act has not been settled. It was also taken off the agenda in order to achieve a wage settlement. If a settlement is not reached, it may put further upward pressure on wage spending.
  •  

     

  • The creation of a senior civil service will be costly. Since 1996 senior managers have accepted below inflation salary increases. It would therefore be very difficult to attract (and retain) the necessary skills in the public service at the senior level without a considerable pay adjustment.
  •  

It is therefore unlikely that government will stick to its projected target of -0.7% growth in real personnel expenditure. In the past the Budget Information Service has emphasized that poor personnel spending planning puts in-year pressure on capital and other current spending. We would also like to raise, as an equal concern, the potential delay in the transformation of the public service. The new remuneration policy, the creation of a senior civil service, the provision of adequate training and the creation of a labour environment conducive to productivity is of critical importance for the efficiency of all types of spending. It is not clear how these improvements have been budgeted for under the current MTBPS projections.

 

TRANSPARENCY and PARTICIPATION

From the above it is clear that the MTBPS has several problems as a medium-term budget framework. It is therefore of great importance that it be discussed thoroughly by parliament and civil society. In fact the Minister of Finance has frequently encouraged civil society to spend greater energy commenting on the MTBPS rather than on the February budget presentation.

The MTBPS is published annually by the national Treasury approximately four months before the beginning of the new fiscal year. Its great contribution is to make budgets more predictable and transparent. Releasing the framework to be used for the upcoming budget before the budget itself is tabled should make it easier for parliament and civil society to engage with the budget.

It is therefore unfortunate that the parliamentary calendar cannot accommodate broad and adequate discussion on the MTBPS. While parliament received a one-day workshop and the National Treasury is briefing the Finance Committee, there has been no opportunity for public input.

Generally the timing of the legislative phase of the budget process still needs attention. These problems should be discussed when the budget amendment powers of parliament are finalised and should form part of the model agreed to by parliament and the executive. In the interim improved planning both by Parliament and the Treasury around the existing opportunities for parliamentary engagements is crucial.

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