Brown highlights failures, successes during budget speech

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The Free State MEC for Finance has tabled her first budget speech under the new leadership of Premier Mxolisi Dukwana.

The sitting on Thursday 16 March 2023 was held in Gariepdam under the Kopanong Local Municipality in the Xhariep District Municipality of the Free State.

MEC Gadija Brown is one of the few MECs who survived the reshuffling by Dukwana. This week she announced that billions of rands would be spent over three years in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) process. She has highlighted the failures and progress made during the 2021/22 financial year across all spectrums of government institutions, including municipalities and departments. She says the Free State economy contracted by 2% in 2022, in contrast with the 3.6% growth rate recorded in 2021. The provincial economy is expected to grow by 0.1% in 2023, owing to significant contractions in the agriculture, manufacturing, and mining sectors.

“Our province continues to battle with persistently high rates of unemployment, poverty and income inequality. The latest QLFS report by Statistics SA reveals an increase in our provincial unemployment rate to 34.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022, from 33.8% in the previous quarter.

“Women and the growing youth population bear the brunt of the high unemployment rate in our province. According to the recent Statistics SA report, women and youth (for ages 15 to 34 years) unemployment rates rose to 39.1% and 47.1% respectively in the fourth quarter of 2022. Out of the economically active (working) population of about 1.21 million in the province, about 332 000 women and 275 000 youth were employed in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

During the 2021/22 municipal financial year, municipalities across the province spent 80% of their Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) of R779.352 million. The province spent R618.607 million and failed to utilise 20% of it.

“In the implementation of the 2021/22 MIG projects, the province created 1 839 temporary jobs. About 356 961 households were serviced and 25km of roads and stormwater pipes were constructed during the 2021/22 financial year,” Brown added.

The Department of Education in the Free State will receive the biggest chunk of funding allocation for the 2023/24 financial year, according to the budget speech.

Brown announced the department has been allocated R17.558 billion in 2023/24, R17.339 billion in 2024/25, and R18.074 billion in the outer financial year. While tabling her 29-page budget speech, she announced that over the MTEF period ahead, a total of R52.971 billion would be allocated to the department.

The Department of Education in the Free State has been a flagship department, producing the best grade 12 results in South Africa. Matriculants have a pass rate of over 80% for four consecutive years. In 2022, under the leadership of the late Education MEC, Tate Makgoe, matric pupils achieved 88.5%, an increase of 2.8% from 2021.

The MTEF sets out three-year spending plans for the national and provincial governments. It aims to ensure that budgets reflect the government’s social and economic priorities and give substance to the government’s reconstruction and development commitments.

OFM News/ Lucky Nkuyane