High wage bill in focus ahead of provincial budget speech

Provincial Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo
Provincial Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo

All eyes will be on Eastern Cape Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo today as he outlines how Bhisho plans to spend its budget in the next financial year.

While opposition parties said they hoped Somyo would announce concrete steps on how he planned to cut down the high wage bill – which takes up about 65% of the total budget – the ANC said it wanted to hear about plans to ensure food security in the province.

The ANC chief whip in the provincial legislature, Mzoleli Mrara, said the budget had to be focused on the poor.

“Our budget needs to be biased towards social services such as construction of roads, schools and clinics,” Mrara said.

“It also need to address agriculture production, not just for commercial purposes but for food security.

“We are also battling with an issue of unemployed young people . . .

“This budget needs to look at how they can be absorbed into the labour market before we end up losing them to other provinces.”

The DA’s leader in the legislature, Bobby Stevenson, said the provincial government had to make a shift and spend money on core matters.

He said there was a desperate need to cut wasteful expenditure and direct the money towards boosting economic growth.

“This includes reducing the cost of our bloated bureaucracy – which eats up 65% of our budget – and cutting back on expenditure on accommodation, travel, conferencing and entertainment,” Stevenson said.

The DA believed in the roll-out of Wi-Fi as a game-changer to help boost economic growth and would be looking out for funds allocated for that, he said.

The UDM’s Thando Mpulu said the high amount dedicated to salaries compromised service delivery and infrastructure development.

Mpulu said: “Education and health take more than half of this budget, but we would like to see that there are specific items the budget is funding in those departments.”

The UDM also expected an allocation of funds for youth programmes that premier Phumulo Masualle spoke about in his state of the province address.

The EFF has criticised the province for not spending money where the party believes it is required.

“Departments lack administrators with capacity to spend allocated budgets,” EFF MPL Dinga Peter said. The government had to start showing it was “serious about consequence management”.

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