Carol Paton Writer at Large

The diversion of R57bn of government spending into grant funding for students at universities and colleges in the middle of a fiscal crisis, and in the context of a stagnating economy, was not the most rational allocation of resources. Nor was it particularly pro-poor, as the budget always claims to be. It was a result of a political ambush by former president Jacob Zuma in his final days of power. Once it was announced, it simply could not be undone. After December 16 last year, it was inevitable. And, although politically imposed, it will be good for SA in the longer term and for the transformation projects. It will however be a very expensive way of promoting social mobility. The intervention is a substantial and permanent change to the budget — aimed to benefit not so much the poor, but the bottom end of the middle class — and will add momentum to the process of building a non-racial nation. In fact, the poor lost out as it was spending on poor communities — on municipal water, ...

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