South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his Budget Speech at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa February 20, 2019. REUTERS/ SUMAYA HISHAM
South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his Budget Speech at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa February 20, 2019. REUTERS/ SUMAYA HISHAM

Tito Mboweni did not come up with concrete plans to lift the economy on to a higher growth path in his budget. This was a commonly held view of political party representatives approached for comment after the finance minister delivered his budget vote speech.

The move to curb the salaries of executives of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) was welcomed, but several party leaders believed this did not go far enough and the same should apply to senior government officials.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane declared the budget an “insanity” as it merely proposed to do more of the same in the hopes of achieving different outcomes. No economic plan had been presented to get SA out of the crisis it is in, he said.

“SA is in deep trouble and we should act boldly and take decisive action. There was no plan for SOEs except rhetoric,” Maimane said.

DA finance spokesman Alf Lees noted that for the first time post-1994 debt to GDP was predicted to breach the 60% level at 60.2% in 2023/2024. “This is the 10th year in a row that debt stabilisation has been pushed out by a further year and makes a mockery of the annual commitments from various ministers of finance to stabilise debt.

“The minister has made a valiant effort to produce a budget that meets the demands from multiple players but which, in the end, effectively kicks the main issues to touch until after the May 2019 election, and probably into the lap of yet another new finance minister.”

EFF leader Julius Malema welcomed the interventions to assist Eskom, but said the budget was flat. “There is nothing new, no alternatives. This is a man who has run out of ideas. There is nothing he is offering that will take us out of this deep hole we are in.”

ACDP finance spokesman Steve Swart said a credible plan was needed to boost economic growth. He was concerned that Mboweni had deviated from the strict fiscal consolidation path of his predecessors, overseeing a rise in the budget deficit and in government debt.

Swart welcomed the fact that there were no increases in the personal and corporate income tax rates, and also welcomed the steps to reduce the number of public servants.

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota welcomed the fact that the government was beginning to look at the size of the executive and bureaucracy, which consumed huge amounts of resources. This was an indicator that “some measure of sobriety” was coming about, he said.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa welcomed the pushback against public sector wages, but said that there was a need to trim the fat in government more broadly.

UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said Mboweni’s speech was “very scanty”. There was no detailed economic plan to build on the ambitious state of the nation address delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The budget deficit and debt had been allowed to get completely out of control, he said. Kwankwa welcomed the steps to better manage SOEs.

Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels felt  Mboweni had not gone into details and that his speech was “much too light” for the very serious financial crisis SA was in. Too many of the announcements were too vague to address the budget shortfall and high level of debt. More concrete plans were needed to cap the public sector wage bill by capping the salaries of senior officials, he said.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za