The Eastern Cape’s Budget Fails at Reprioritisation at the Expense of the People

ActionSA is dismayed that the provincial budget for the 2023/24 fiscal year provided nothing new and continues to ignore the plight of the people of the Eastern Cape. Either The Eastern Cape MEC for Finance, Vukile Mvoko, lacks the imagination to reconfigure the budget to mirror the immediate and most pressing needs of the people or the ANC is just not fit for purpose and doesn’t care.

ActionSA has continually exposed the realities that are the lived experiences of many in the province. These include substandard education (& lack of teachers and learner support materials, not to mention inappropriate school infrastructure), deteriorating community safety, underwhelming agricultural productivity especially on communally owned land, acute power shortages and general infrastructure decay.

As has been the case in previous provincial budgets: education and health continue to enjoy the lion’s share of the budget, albeit at the same historical proportion. This exposes the fact that the provincial budget process is uninspired and does not seek to accommodate any form of reprioritisation that the MEC claims to have informed this budget.

The budget has not provided for the addressing of the chronic teacher shortages and the general under-resourcing of schools.

Community safety, at 0.1%, remains an uninspiring allocation, given the recent spate of killings and robberies in the province, especially the metros. This budget does not reflect the sense of urgency that is needed to address the safety of our citizens.

Given that the historical allocations towards rural and agriculture development have not yielded any visible return on investment, it is baffling that this allocation in the 2023/24 budget has not been increased. Clearly, the Premier’s acknowledgement of his government’s failure to address rural development was another rather unfortunate exercise in obfuscation.

While priority areas such education and community safety received a pedestrian inflation-linked increase, in line with the total budget increase, the allocation to the office of the Premier jarringly increased by 25% compared to the previous fiscal year. The bulk of this has been set aside for provincial Information and Communication Technology, which hints at yet another mega tender opportunity for ANC cadres and to cater for ANC election campaign propaganda.

The 49% increase in the allocation to Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism would have been applaudable had the MEC clearly articulated how this will assist in invigorating tourism and the oceans economy.

The conditional infrastructure grant money that has been forfeited in the past three fiscal years has proved that budget allocation is not the main problem, but it is the management of the actual budget that the government does not have the capacity for. We hope that the money that has been set aside for performance measurement and evaluation will address this capacity constraint.

A provincial economy that is forecasted to end 2023 only 0.7% higher, needs more than a maintenance budget. It needs qualified, inspired, creative and committed minds to build an economy that will provide opportunities for more people of the Eastern Cape, especially those from the hinterland.

This budget which is based on the Premiers SoPA is clearly a reflection of the fact that the ANC is overwhelmed and not capable of effectively governing this province. The only way to address this reality is for the Eastern Cape electorate to remove them from office next year.