BIG BUD­GET, LOTS OF PEO­PLE TO PAY

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - SHAUN HAR­RIS

KWAZULU-NA­TAL, WITH a pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mated at close on 10m peo­ple, re­ceives the largest share of Gov­ern­ment’s rev­enue for its pro­vin­cial bud­get, 21% com­pared to the next most pop­u­lous re­gion, Gaut­eng, which gets 17%.

Just how the prov­ince plans to spend the money – R43,5bn for the latest bud­get – nat­u­rally at­tracts much in­ter­est. In KwaZulu-Na­tal there are huge so­cial prob­lems – un­em­ploy­ment, of­fi­cially 30% of the pop­u­la­tion, and an es­ti­mated “poverty rate” of 51,9%.

Fi­nance MEC Zweli Mkhize is di­rect­ing the lion’s share to­wards health and ed­u­ca­tion. Pro­vin­cial health de­part­ments will get a 14,4% in­crease.

Ed­u­ca­tion gets a sim­i­lar in­crease.

Seen in broad brush strokes, few will ar­gue with this. Un­til you start dig­ging down to try and see ex­actly where and how the money will be spent. It turns out R24,7bn, or about 57% of the bud­get, is go­ing on salaries.

For many or­di­nary peo­ple in KwaZulu-Na­tal this may be hard to fathom. Ob­vi­ously a large num­ber of pro­vin­cial staff are needed to run es­sen­tial ser­vices, and there’s lit­tle ques­tion that teach­ers and health work­ers need de­cent in­creases. But the pub­lic also sees and has to put up with gross in­ef­fi­cien­cies in many de­part­ments.

But the pub­lic can per­haps draw some com­fort from com­ments by pre­mier S’bu Nde­bele, who says a pro­gramme has been ini­ti­ated to stamp out the “poor work ethic and ill-dis­ci­pline” com­mon in many pro­vin­cial de­part­ments. The pro­gramme will in­clude unan­nounced blitzes on var­i­ous de­part­ments by mem­bers of the pro­vin­cial cabi­net to see for them­selves just how well pub­lic ser­vants are, or aren’t, work­ing.

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