For TCOE Minister Gordhan’s 2012 Budget has to be assessed against the backdrop of on-going and deepening poverty, unemployment and landlessness of the rural poor.
One of the main announcements yesterday was the massive infrastructure spending. This was to support President Zuma’s State of the Nation address and the ANC’s drive towards creating the long-promised million jobs. Accordingly, over the next three years it is intended to spend R845 billion on capital projects in the energy (R300 billion) and transport and logistics (R200 billion) sectors. However, little is said about the fact that huge infrastructure expenditure is only useful if it is linked to sustainable capital projects like the establishment of State-owned and driven housing projects.
The World Cup stadium building projects showed us how wasteful short-term low-paid jobs actually are. It would be great if the Minister could spell out whether the resources allocated to transport is to rebuild a decent public transport system, including rail that could service the rural poor as well. Building a decent public transport system can create much needed permanent jobs and skills. Our country needs nurses, health workers, teachers and police – this is where we should be creating jobs. If the infrastructure projects are only seen as a short-term investment that only enriches labour brokers and “tenderpreneurs” – we will not have an impact on unemployment, and poverty and inequality will continue to widen and deepen.
Furthermore, in many rural municipalities, infrastructure supporting water maintenance, storage, electrification and sanitation has to be upgraded and extended. This implies supporting municipalities to put staffing and systems in place that can maintain the infrastructure as opposed to the current piece-meal approach and the lack technical support that exists in rural (and urban) municipalities. Rebuild the municipal technical services - train young people to work in the municipalities. This is an investment in rural underdevelopment and poverty.
No vision for Land and agrarian Reform
Unfortunately, the Minister paid only lip service to dealing with rural development. The targeted 4000 land claims in the budget is extremely inadequate. We can no longer pay lip service to land reform and land distribution.
The budget speech places “support for emerging farmers and land reform beneficiaries” as one of the key levers of change. Considering the recent reports about the state of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the budget does not signal a move towards instituting measures to curb corruption and prioritise on getting under-resourced land reform farms operational. An additional billion rand allocation to the Land Bank is evidence that government continues to see rural development as an objective to be pursuit with the framework of corporate processes.
This was an opportune moment to scrap the “willing buyer willing seller” principle and allocate much greater resource and commitment to speeding up land distribution programmes. We expected greater resource allocation, support and promotion of small scale farmers as a strategy to deal with food insecurity, rural poverty and the slow pace of land redistribution. Rural development as a key pillar of the ANC’s strategy cannot take place without a radical transformation of existing land holding patterns. Farms that have failed as part of the recent LRAD programmes have failed because of limited resources and support not because “small farmers cannot farm”. Cooperatives and systems of agro-processing support for small farmers also require resources.
We indicated earlier on an effective rural development strategy that requires significant infrastructure development such public transport and other basic services to meet social and economic needs, particularly in former Bantustan areas. But we also need a development fund that can be managed at municipal level to support that development of small family farming sector, extension of municipal commonage and subsidies for small farmers’ access to water and renewable energy.
The Minister of Finance and treasury in general should also pay heed to the commitments made by the Minister of Agriculture; Tina Joematt-Peterson, who is a signatory to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) which promises input subsidies, land, resources and extension services to assist small farmers to achieve household and national food security. Instead the budget provides no dramatic departure from the past and we see no support for transforming the countryside, the former Bantustans and small farmers.
Trust for Community Outreach and Education.