GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier said the R217,83-billion budget he tabled on Tuesday 16 March is a "budget of hope" that supports a plan to defeat Covid-19 while at the same time focusing on a recovery plan for the economy, improving safety and the well-being of citizens, and creating a "leaner" and "smarter" government when it comes to service delivery.
Maynier announced an allocation of R75-million to procure up to 500 000 single-shot Covid-19 vaccines, saying the province faces a choice: defeat the virus or be defeated by the virus. "To defeat the virus, we must, above all, vaccinate as many people, as fast as possible."
The procuring of vaccines is part of a "war chest" to fight Covid-19 with a total budget of R2,17-billion. It will be spent on rolling out 5,1 million vaccinations (at a cost of R325,6m) and the response to a potential third wave of the pandemic (R832-million). Because of the unprecedented uncertainty of the pandemic, a further R800m has been ring-fenced for the fight against Covid-19.
A further R100m was approved for providing humanitarian relief to people who have lost jobs and are going hungry.
Maynier announced a Western Cape Recovery Plan that includes spending:
• R17,08bn to boost economic growth and create jobs (R46,9m on ease of doing business interventions; R367,6m on boosting investment and promoting exports; R559,46m on scaling up job opportunities);
• R2,35bn on improving safety (R750m on 500 additional law enforcement officers; R23m on opportunities for at-risk youth); and
• R115,96bn on dignity and well-being of Western Cape residents (R772m on e-learning access; R17,5m to increase support services to those at risk of gender-based violence;).
Maynier also announced a R29,09bn budget for infrastructure creation to stimulate economic growth. In this regard, the new Project Preparation Facility was formed to support provincial departments and public entities in preparing and planning for future infrastructure projects.
A Fiscal Transition Support Facility has been established to create "leaner and smarter" service delivery. For this, R142,8-m was budgeted from the provincial reserves. Smarter services include home delivery of chronic medication to decongest clinics (R99m), tele-health services to support remote delivery of health services (R10m), an e-procurement system that will make it easier for businesses, especially small businesses, to become government suppliers (R2); and digitising the Western Cape archives (R1,35m), which will move the entire archive online, enabling easier access for researchers while decreasing physical space requirements and rental costs.
'Budget on target for recovery'
AHi chairman Dr Willie Cilliers said the budget's aims to boost economic recovery and make it easier to do business while also focusing on improving safety and addressing people's well-being are right on target.
"Covid has dealt us an immense blow. Businesses have seen an average drop in income of between 40% and 60% compared with 2019. The hospitality industry is almost dead because of lockdowns and the new variant is still keeping visitors away," he said.
"More businesses are expected to close in the next month, so the budget's focus on economic revival is welcomed, but it will take three to five years to recover to pre-Covid figures. Jobs cannot be created overnight. Implementation of the measures right down to the level of local government and the will of officials and politicians to make it work, is of course key."
Spend in the Garden Route
The total budget breaks down to R72,39-billion for 2021/22, R72,68-billion for 2022/23 and R72,77-billion for 2023/24.
R18,94bn will be spent in the Garden Route Municipality out of R217,61bn budgeted over the medium term for municipalities in the Western Cape.
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