Another year, again only one extra slice of bread per day for our children
With a far better global economic climate this time around, Minister Pravin Gordhan could have done much better in his budget. Again the budget is very disappointing for poor children and their families. Most shocking is the miniscule 3.7 percent increase in the Child Support Grant (CSG), by R10 per month to R280 per child per month. The Foster Care Grant increases by R30 per month (4 percent) to R770 per month. As with last year the CSG increase will give each child only one extra slice of bread per day.
The Minister said government wanted to reduce poverty and build a decent life for all. In this budget which would have made Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan proud, he does not provide either of these. Proudly he said that, “Investment in people is at the centre of our growth and development strategy”. Minister Gordhan, your budget is no such thing, the small amounts allocated towards eradicating poverty is a disgrace.
During his speech the Minister quoted the late Walter Sisulu. As when he quoted the late Chris Hani last year saying ”We want to build a nation free from hunger, disease and poverty, free from ignorance, homelessness and humiliation…” His budget this year does no such thing. Following this budget our young children will still grow up hungry, living in poverty, lacking quality education, being homeless and with their basic human rights trampled on.
Education at 21 percent takes up the largest share of expenditure and social grant grows from R105 billion to R122 billion benefiting 16 million South Africans. This is a marginal improvement but much of this will be wasted because of the lack of quality early childhood development funding and opportunities for young children. Early childhood development, and childcare and protection programmes get an extra R1.4 billion over the 4-year METF but we have no detail at all. The benefits of investing in these areas are largely lost if young children enter the education system without the critical skills acquired in the preschool years. If children enter school without early literacy, early numeracy, life skills and hungry they cannot perform and the expenditure is wasted.
On the prioritisation of early childhood development we will have to wait and see what this means. However, we have heard it all before from former President Thabo Mbeki, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and President Jacob Zuma, with little results.
So what does this budget really tell us? Vast numbers of young children will continue to go without quality education, without quality health care and without quality housing and their parents will still be without work, the very things that Minister Pravin Gordhan wants them to have. Chronic poverty remains and inequality grows. Thatcherism and Reaganomics have reached South Africa.
Associate Professor Eric Atmore
Department of Social Development
University of Cape Town