No point protesting when the horse has bolted
EACH year the City’s budget gets focus totally independent of the very important Integrated Plan. It is commonplace in life for plans to precede any expenditure.
What is omitted from a plan naturally fails to make it into a budget. The fact that the City’s IDP made no provision for any major economic transformation of the townships has resulted in no budget being approved for any major developments in the townships.
As usual, there are many people who are unhappy about the City’s budget. Unfortunately, the horse had already bolted. The public should have dealt with the IDP to influence what the ideal budget ought to be.
A builder will quote on what is in the plan. What is not there will not be quoted on and will not be built. What will get built is what is in the plans and what is being paid for. If escalation is built into the contract, a higher charge will be levied. That is how it is.
The editorial of Wednesday in the Cape Argus was a very severe indictment against the DA-led administration. It observed that “the DA has had to rationalise its contradictions.” The party wants to “compete for black votes while maintaining and guarding white privilege in Cape Town and Western Cape.”
The consequence of that contradiction is that the Integrated Development Plan largely omits providing for big catalytic developments in townships. This failure occurs in spite of the City receiving the annual Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant from the national government.
The purpose of the NDPG has been to encourage each municipality to initiate large multi-faceted projects in the townships that will attract private sector interest and input.
If this had happened, the townships would have seen much-needed development and witnessed genuine economic growth. Such development would also have encouraged banks to accept township properties as collateral. That in turn would have allowed “dead capital in residential stock” to be activated. Over the years, if the City had initiated developments, townships would have seen a secondary property market developing and taking off.
Unfortunately, this did not happen. To make matters worse, National Treasury is reducing various grants because the fiscus itself is in dire straits. Transfers to local government in RSA will be reduced by R19.4 billion this year.
This means that the City is going to have to do much more with much less than before. The way forward is to follow the Keynesian economic path and for the City to borrow substantially at the low rates now available to invest in revenue generating infrastructure and paying projects. Province has pointed out, in evaluating the City’s budget, that the City has scope to borrow and invest in highly viable projects that will invigorate the economy. There is, for instance, a 400-hectare City-owned site waiting to be developed.
It is better to get the economy going than using policing in hot spots where communities are experiencing deprivation. In these hot spots we are seeing a spiralling of crime, vandalism and violence. Councillor Badroodien’s directorate, for example, is going to spend R295 million to protect clinics, libraries and other amenities.
The housing backlog, which is already huge, is going to become an even bigger backlog because there is going to be a reduction of R106 580 000 in the Human Settlements Development Grant. To exacerbate the situation even further, the 2021-22 IDP is proposing to reduce the target for housing opportunities from 4 129 to 2 500 and for built houses from 4 150 to 2 600 and this must signal real danger.
The IDP should be both transformative and regenerative if the legacy of apartheid is to be negated. That is why more focus should be on the IDP instead of the budget which only closes the circle that the IDP begins.
Complaining about the budget without having fought very hard in the first place for the plans that should have gone into the IDP is to protest vigorously after the horse has bolted.