A day in politics is a long time – as we witnessed, almost in disbelief, the events over the past few months and weeks unfolding. From the ANCs December elective conference to Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascendancy into the highest office in the land, it seems the country’s mood went from negative to very positive in just a short period of time.
The State of the Nation address seems to have hit the right notes, while the ‘tough but hopeful’ budget aims to target rising government debt, plug the huge gap in revenue, and forecasts a 1,5% economic growth outlook over the next year. While the VAT increase will affect the poor the most, there was very little wiggle room to start with.
What is encouraging is that a huge amount of initial steps in the right direction taken by President Ramaphosa will benefit the poor. The most significant change will be a shift in government’s focus. While we will continue to experience the effects of former President Zuma’s administration for a while to come, a number of decisive steps by President Ramaphosa will see benefits reaching the poor in the short and medium term. These include:
- A commitment to addressing state capture – by far the gravest indictment against our new democracy
- Appointing Pravin Gordhan to oversee the SOEs and restoring governance and financial strength
- Convening a Jobs Summit
- Convening an investment summit
- The recent cabinet reshuffle surprised many and disappointed some, but it was a good compromise. This new cabinet will ensure that crucial ministries are more focussed on delivery
- Special attention will be given to Chapter 9 and State institutions like the NPA; Hawks; and the Public Protector
- Revitalising and restructuring the agricultural and mining sectors specifically
- The introduction and phasing in of free higher education
- More support for small and black-owned businesses
So how will the plight of the poor change materially? We are likely to see the following direct / indirect benefits:
- The replacement of cabinet ministers tasked with addressing the needs of the poor – the Departments of Social Development; Trade and Industry; Co-operative Governance; Health; Human Settlements etc. will lead to improved government performance and better service delivery for the poor
- Greater focus and a better implementation plan will come forth to address the Sustainable Development Goals – more specifically – poverty; hunger; and healthy living
- The re-appointment of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister will ensure that state treasury is protected and safeguards its mandate
- Positive sentiment will increase investment and economic growth – more people will be employed and less of a burden on the state
- With a renewed focus on ending corruption, we will see value for money and savings will mean better focussed spending on addressing poverty, hunger, malnutrition, education etc.
There’s no doubt that our beautiful country is on a more positive trajectory, but there are many challenges ahead and all require prompt attention, intelligent redress, and decisive action. But, if this is where our country is headed, then I also “wanna be there when the people start to turn it around, when they triumph over poverty…’ Exciting times!
Andy Du Plessis