For the first time in years finance minister Tito Mboweni did not say a word about the public sector wage bill during his budget speech. However, National Treasury has conceded that its planned savings from the public sector wage bill cannot be achieved through a wage freeze alone. There will be headcount reductions in the public service, a decision that will put the government on a collision course with public sector unions and further erode the quality of service delivery.

Mike Sachs, an adjunct professor at Wits University, said in a recent article: “It is highly unlikely that the proposed fiscal consolidation path can be achieved without a reduction of personnel, particularly in basic education, the criminal justice system and defence force. Considering the population they serve is increasing, the real value of these services will decline. Budgets for essential goods and services, like textbooks, petrol, medicines or maintenance, will also come under increasing pressure ...

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