On 7 March 2023, the Democracy Development Program held a Public Forum that focused on unpacking the 2023 National Budget. The event comes just shy of two weeks after South African Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, presented the National Budget.
The Budget was presented under the theme: Navigating an uneven economic recovery. The National Budget Review noted that the budget had to prioritise stable and clear policies as to promote economic growth in the midst of an uncertain economic outlook. GDP is expected to grow by 0.9% in real term in 2023, compared with an estimate of 1.$ at the time of the latest Medium-Term budget Policy Statement. However, the National Budget Review noted that the rate of economic expansion is well below the pace required to generate significant employment growth and to grow national development.
The Public Forum was a platform to unpack the implications of said low levels of economic growth. The three main areas of discussion from the Forum included:
It became clear during the discussions that the budget speech is highly important as it outlines the states plan on financing common public goods in the country. One of the primary priorities was the state’s plan to curbing loadshedding.
An interesting key highlight, was the state introducing an incentive on renewable energy. Those who install renewable energy on a private capacity, would eligible to receiving 15% tax rebate. It was raised in the Forum that albeit that the incentive might be encouraging people to transition into renewable energy, not everyone can afford to install alternative energy. This benefit is skewed towards those of a higher economic class that can afford solar panels. The audience argued that it would be appreciated if the state proposed its plan to make alternative energy sources affordable to all South Africans.
It was also noted that the Budget plan comes at a crucial time for the governing party. With talks of coalitions, it is likely that the ruling party will not be receiving a majority 50% win in the upcoming elections. The priority areas of the Budget could play some role in helping the ANC – to what extent is very debatable.
South Africa sits with high youth population and therefore decisions made in the Budget should accommodate them accordingly. However, it was argued in the Forum that the Budget recycled plans from previous years when it comes to the youth. High levels of unemployment which primarily affect the youth are routinely acknowledged, however plans to fix it have failed. The rate has been rising instead of decreasing as previous budgets promised. It is with apprehension that young people in South Africa believe that the state will solve the issue of unemployment.
Riveting audience engagement came out of this Forum touching on issues regarding their effects internal party politics of the ANC can have the implantation of the plans set out in the Budget and SONA. Audience concerns were raised regarding how the Budget plans to take care of the issues in the KZN, especially the people are still feeling the effects of the 2021 July Unrest and the floods experienced by the province. It was clear in the room that there is high expectation for the state to meet its promises.
DDP would like to thank the guest speakers for prompting such an important engagement: Mbali Ntuli (Former Member of Provincial Parliament and CEO of Groundwork Collective), Tessa Dooms (Director at Rivonia Circle), Thobani Zikalala (Political Commentator) and Kristal Duncan (Project Lead, Youth Capital). Most importantly, thank you to everyone that attended and contributed to this discussion.
Watch the full recording here> https://www.youtube.com/live/x2aLRQCH9As?feature=share
Article published by the rising sun here> https://northcoastrisingsun.co.za/131265/society-unpacks-the-national-budget/