‘Hands off my gravy’

CityPress - - Voices -

Later this year, the pres­i­dent is due for an avi­a­tion upgrade – a jet worth about R4 bil­lion, as we re­ported last year. Of­fi­cials say it will turn out to be a lesser beast, but given the in­junc­tion to tighten our belts, will our Num­ber 1 can­cel the jet? This week’s state of the na­tion ad­dress hit the emer­gency stop but­ton on over­seas flights for political lead­ers and pu­bic ser­vants. Will it work? When then fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene tried to put in place a ban on busi­ness-class travel last year, the push­back was se­vere from of­fi­cials used to the high life.

It’s easy to say you are go­ing to cut the gravy, but the proof of the pud­ding is a more dif­fi­cult thing to find. We have one of the largest and most ex­pen­sive bu­reau­cra­cies in the world by pop­u­la­tion size, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral com­par­isons. Try to touch it, or its perks, and the ser­vants be­come less civil. Does the pres­i­dent have the political cap­i­tal to see through the cuts he promised this week?

And do they go far enough? Can govern­ment em­ploy­ees be per­suaded to forgo an in­crease, as many of their coun­ter­parts in the pri­vate and civil so­ci­ety sec­tors have done? And why not bite the bul­let and make Pre­to­ria the political cap­i­tal? Govern­ment has been talk­ing about do­ing this for 20 years now. Make like Nike and just do it.

While the pres­i­dent is tak­ing brave de­ci­sions, the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan has anatomised the cost of our nine provinces and con­cluded that they should be cen­tres of de­liv­ery and not of pol­i­tics, be­cause they have very lit­tle leg­isla­tive power. Make the provinces ad­min­is­tra­tive nodes and govern­ment will deal, in one fell swoop, with a grow­ing prob­lem: the pre­miers are be­com­ing like chiefs with fief­doms.

There were great anti-gravy sound bites in the state of the na­tion ad­dress, but turn­ing that think­ing into ac­tion will re­quire a test of wills.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.