Former president Jacob Zuma’s plan for free education is expected to gobble up R57bn of the national budget over the medium term, amid concern that the policy could be unsustainable, given the country’s low economic growth. The Treasury projects real GDP growth of 1.5% in 2018, 1.8% in 2019, and 2.1% in 2020. In his budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said that providing free higher education was an important step forward in breaking the cycle of poverty and confronting youth unemployment. The largest reallocation of resources towards the government’s priorities was for higher education and training, amounting to an additional R57bn to fund the phasing in of free tertiary education. The department got R792bn, making it the largest single beneficiary of the budget. “As a result, this is the fastest-growing spending category, with an annual average growth of 13.7%,” Gigaba said. The R57bn will be allocated over the medium-term expenditure framework...

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