On Thursday, Eastern Cape Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo will table his budget for the year ahead. It’s a tough task. The conditions are unfavourable.
Similarly to the national GDP, the Eastern Cape economy remains sluggish.
Companies are battling to stay afloat, there are not enough jobs to go around and the pressure on the provincial fiscus is phenomenal.
Attempting to ease the burden, last year the provincial government promised – for the fifth year in a row – to cut its ever-increasing wage bill.
This as it emerged that at least 65% of the provincial budget paid salaries.
The situation is unsustainable for any sound administration.
“These tough economic times call for innovative thinking and high levels of discipline,” Somyo said last year.
“In this regard, core service delivery programmes will be protected, all non-core expenditure items such as travel and subsistence, entertainment, catering, overseas travel and accommodation will be strictly managed,” he said.
He further promised to freeze the appointment of provincial administrative staff, to centralise the recruitment process and to conduct quarterly analysis to ensure core delivery progress.
Come Thursday, Somyo must account for the progress in each of these undertakings.
He must show what has been done to reduce expenditure on salaries as well as to curb waste.
He must show what measures had been taken to undo bottlenecks that prevent efficient delivery.
Through this budget, Somyo must display a commitment to prudent fiscal management.
Ultimately, he must chart the way forward to invest public money to stimulate businesses and to ensure the inclusive growth of our economy.