25 October 2022 – The Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) is an essential tool used to demonstrate the commitments made in the Constitution to achieve equality, dignity, and socio-economic rights for all. It is also a political statement made by government on how it understands these obligations.
Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) and the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) hosted a preMTBPS discussion today with civil society, media, and other interest groups. The aim was to unpack how government can be held accountable for its constitutional obligations, which includes enabling public participation in the budget process.
The civil society organisations called for human rights to be given greater priority in the budget and for government to move away from its overly simplistic focus on debt reduction. Actual spending on education and healthcare has fallen drastically in the past decade due to austerity policies. The question the participants asked the most was: “where will the money to invest in human rights come from?” Daniel McLaren from SECTION27 listed some critical reasons for the increase in public debt over the past decade, which are:
1. State capture- This meant that funds intended for public developmental purposes were wasted on enriching private individuals. The most significant impact this had on our fiscus was the capture and decapacitation of SARS.
2. Low economic growth and, in particular, the Covid-19 induced deep recession,
3. The gradual lowering of corporate and personal income tax rates in South Africa since 1997 has lowered our potential tax revenue, leading to a structural budget deficit.
McLaren also noted that South Africa had followed international trends in lowering taxes but that this was no longer sustainable. Government would need taxes on middle-class, high-income, and wealthy individuals, and corporates would be required to ensure a balanced budget where fiscal sustainability and social sustainability are not traded against each other.
Government’s responsibility is to ensure that funds are sufficient to improve human rights holistically. The webinar received a birdseye view on a number of different sectors, and unfortunately, failures of the budget allocations have resulted in increased vulnerability of the majority of South Africans.
Budget Justice Coalition facilitated a robust conversation between Rural Health Advocacy Project, SECTION27, HEALA, Institute for Economic Justice, Black Sash, and Equal Education.
Click on the link for the recording if you have missed the discussion.
Phemelo Khaas Phemelo.Khaas@rhap.co.za 08376334723