Debate on the 2019 Appropriations Bill by Cde Xolisile Qayiso (MP) in the National Assembly

23 July 2019

The past 25 years shows that we have made remarkable strides in meeting the aspirations of our people for a Better Life for All. The Appropriation Bill ensures greater focus on confronting problems facing the nation through the implementation of the programmes announces by President Ramaphosa during his 2018 and 2019 SONA speeches. Implemented effectively, this Appropriation Bill provides a platform for renewal, inclusive growth and job creation; directs spending to our most pressing national priorities that of education, implementing the early childhood development (ECD) agenda announced by President, protecting the vulnerable and investing in enablers of inclusive growth.

The Appropriation Bill is in line with the 2019/20 budget designed by the ANC government to cure our country of the corrosive effects of corruption and to restore the integrity of our institutions. The Budget moderates spending and raises the revenues required to contain the growth in national debt, whilst minimizing the negative effects on growth. The Budget presents a roadmap to maintaining the integrity of our public finances, while protecting social services. As stated by the President, “as social partners, we are restoring the bonds of trust, dialogue and cooperation”.

Government spending is allocated to function groups according to their general purpose. The largest function group is learning and culture, which receives an allocation of R1.24 trillion, or 24.1 per cent of consolidated expenditure, over the MTEF period. The learning and culture, social development, health and community development functions make up more than half of government expenditure.  The function with the fastest-growing allocation is community development, which grows from R186.4 billion in 2018/19 to R243.7 billion in 2021/22, at an annual rate of 9.3 per cent. This includes funding for free basic services and human settlements.

We acknowledge that the learning and education function receives the largest share of spending. It provides access to basic and higher education, develops skills, provides training and contributes to social cohesion. Priorities in this function include improving school and student housing infrastructure, and providing bursaries for tertiary students from poor and working-class families. Spending grows from R354.8 billion to R442.6 billion over the medium term, at an average annual growth rate of 7.6 per cent.

Basic education accounts for the largest share of expenditure over the MTEF period. On average, employee compensation in provincial education departments absorbs 52.7 per cent of the function’s expenditure and 79 per cent of total provincial education budgets.  The education infrastructure grant is allocated R34.3 billion over the three-year spending period to build new schools and maintain schooling infrastructure. An additional R2.8 billion is allocated to the school infrastructure backlogs grant to replace pit latrines at over 2 400 schools. This grant will also replace 147 inappropriate and unsafe schools, and provide water to 352 schools over the MTEF period.  An amount of R19 billion is provided for learner and teacher support material, and R3.9 billion is allocated to fund 38 000 Funza Lushaka bursaries for prospective teachers in priority subject areas such as mathematics, science and technology. About 9 million learners at over 20 000 schools will receive daily meals through the national school.

We welcome the focus on youth, which reflects the largest allocation of resources towards government’s priorities on basic and higher education, skills development training to contribute to social cohesion. Over and above the R30 billion allocated to building new schools and maintaining infrastructure, R2.8 billion is allocated to phase out pit latrines in over 2 400 schools. We support the phasing in of free education through the allocation of R111.2 billion which will ensure that 2.8 deserving students from poor working families obtain their qualifications from universities and TVET colleges.

It is correct and definitely right for our country future health outcomes, that the National Health Insurance remains a priority of government. National Health Insurance for the provision of universal health coverage remains a priority in this budget. It should be understood that in promoting this national priority, money was added to the national health insurance indirect grant, to be delivered on testing and preparation necessary for the rollout of universal health coverage. However, the reduction to the health sector’s conditional grant are to the infrastructure grants, both the direct one, as well as the component of the indirect one. This is to streamline resources allocations in the sector and prioritize the maintenance of existing health infrastructure.

The health function aims to ensure access to healthcare services for all people in South Africa through a caring and quality health system. Spending in this function grows by an annual average of 7 per cent over the medium term.  Implementing national health insurance (NHI) is a policy priority for the sector. However, government needs to address staff shortages and other problems in public health facilities before the policy can be fully rolled out. Over the MTEF period, R2.8 billion is reprioritised from the NHI indirect grant (personal services component) to the new human resources capacitation grant to help provinces fill critical posts, including intern and community service posts. In addition, R1 billion is added to the provincial equitable share in 2021/22 to fund the permanent appointment of medical interns.

In conclusion, as indicated through the 2019 Appropriation Bill and my points made earlier, the extremely tight macro-economic and fiscal environment demands bold decisions to bring public spending in line with revenue available. This Appropriation Bill, notwithstanding fiscal consolidation and cuts to budgets, continues to ensure productive spending and social spending that benefits the poor through the social wage and other forms of social protection.  The ANC support the Appropriation Bill as presented by then National Treasury.