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Health care will suck up a hefty 14.2% of the government’s spending for the next three years. That seems sizeable and even, perhaps, pleasing to a population in the throes of a pandemic. But hidden in the fine print of the National Treasury’s Estimated National Expenditure are real budget cuts.

This year, the health department is being granted R248bn — a 0.3% decrease in real terms if you look at inflation and the actual amount spent on health in the most recent financial year (R247bn). Still, it’s an increase from the R229bn that had been initially allocated for 2020...

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