John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

President Cyril Ramaphosa's R500bn social relief and economic support package, which amounts to about 10% of SA's GDP, has been welcomed by political parties.

Ramaphosa on Tuesday evening addressed the nation on SA's economic response to the pandemic, which he said should be equal to the scale of the disruption the novel coronavirus was causing.

The response plan included additional funding for health, municipalities, small and medium businesses, companies and workers, as well as an increase in social grants to help those who were most desperately affected by the virus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government will make an additional R500bn available to assist in the fight against Covid-19.

The funds will come from a reprioritisation of about R130bn within the country's current budget, and the rest would be raised from local sources such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as well as global partners and international finance institutions.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Tuesday evening that Ramaphosa's speech was the “right speech at the right time and if we get it implemented now and roll it out properly, we are going to save both lives and livelihoods”.  

He said it was great to see that the president was willing to go to the International Monetary Fund.

“This is all very, very good news, as it means we won't have to dip into private pension funds,” Steenhuisen said.

He was also pleased about Ramaphosa's announcement of a phased lifting of the lockdown which the president said will be driven by data-based evidence. The DA has argued for a “smart lockdown” which would see a phased approach in combating the virus while keeping the economy going.

He also said the money which will be put into front line health care was “the absolute right decision” to make.

“We are very supportive of the economic stimulus package that he put on the table. Obviously the devil lies in the detail, but its very welcome,” Steenhuisen said.

The IFP said it welcomed the package, adding that it was “cautiously optimistic” that the additional funding and relief measures would reach the individuals for whom they were intended.

The IFP called on parliament to ramp up its oversight capacity to ensure that checks and balances were in place to monitor the implementation and action plans of the various departments and entities as the plan is rolled out.

The EFF said while it welcomed the core aspects announced on social relief, the party would await the details of the additional economic measures that the president said will be communicated during the course of the week. 

The party said it noted that the government was exploring different strategies and plans for the distribution of food.

"We demand that in the ultimate end, no politician should be involved in the distribution of food because they have proven that they do so on partisan political basis, nepotism and theft. The technology being explored should lead to a situation where those in need decide what to buy and what intervals,"the EFF said. 

The EFF said it remained opposed to the consideration of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank as sources of the economic stimulus and relief package. 

"The IMF and World Bank loans come with restrictive conditionalities, which will deprive SA of its fiscal and monetary policy sovereignty in the future," the EFF said. 

The party called on Ramaphosa to announce comprehensive and workable solutions which will salvage the 2020 academic year when he addresses the nation again. 

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