Minister Mboweni’s revised fiscal framework in response to the Covid pandemic saw us entering uncharted waters in a raging storm – sailing into the wind.
It is our job as public representatives to ensure the ship remains seaworthy and on course
We must do this in an environment of extreme unemployment, grinding poverty, struggling businesses and business sectors, and reduced tax income.
As if these aren’t obstacles enough, we must also cover the mounting hard costs of our medical defence. We must pay for more hospitals, quarantine sites, medical and protective equipment, and we must employ more frontline staff.
We must spend what we have differently, and we must borrow more, sinking us a little deeper down a debt hole. And the further we sink, we know, the more difficult it will be to climb out.
Whereas many experts and others have characterised Covid’s challenge as a choice between lives and livelihoods, human or economic health, the bigger question is how much we can afford to spend to finance a stimulus package that will achieve both.
Covid did not invent poverty and inequality, it underlined them. It highlighted the disgraceful conditions of hopelessness in which so many of our people have been forced to live.
What we do now has to begin to fix these imbalances. If it doesn’t, we risk tipping over the edge.
In such bleak conditions, who wants to be the Minister of Finance with responsibility for determining the next fiscal steps?
The stabilisation of debt at no more than 87.4% of GDP in 2023/24;
The target of a primary surplus by 2023/24 to navigate us out of this storm; and
That we will pursue an infrastructure-led economic growth plan.
Investment in infrastructure will stimulate the economy, create jobs and address the infrastructure backlog.
As we forge a new economy, we must not repeat the mistake of leaving our most vulnerable people – the poorest of the poor – outside. Those who are unemployed and don’t qualify for existing grants from the State must be accommodated by means of a Basic Income Grant.
In time, when we have weathered this storm, our children and grandchildren must look back at this moment as transformative. We had the courage, under fire, they will say, to build a new kind of house with enough rooms to safely accommodate all our people.