Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has described his maiden Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, as one that well.
“It went very well, I think,” said the Minister at a media briefing on Wednesday.
Having taken off his grey suit jacket and loosened his tie, Mboweni said the tabling of the MTBPS, also known as the mini-budget, in Parliament went well, with little heckling involved.
Mboweni who earlier in the day said he was still getting used to being the country’s Minister of Finance, said President Cyril Ramaphosa had “out-negotiated” him into taking the job following the resignation of his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene.
“I actually did not want this job. I was doing well in the private sector. The President approached me and asked me to do this. I can say that I resisted this to the best of my ability, [but] he out-negotiated me.”
Briefing reporters in Parliament in scorching Cape Town, the Minister appeared to be in good spirits.
The former Governor of the Reserve Bank stressed the importance of partnerships between government and the private sector, while also responding to questions around the public sector wage bill.
While the wage bill remains the biggest cost pressure on the budget, Mboweni acknowledged that the public sector has “highly capable” people.
“There is a sufficient number of highly capable people in the public sector, very honourable public servants,” said the one-time Labour Minister appointed under the Presidency of South Africa’s founding father Nelson Mandela.
Mboweni also spoke of the reconfiguration of State-owned companies (SOCs), calling for fresh thinking around them.
“We should be open minded about inviting equity partners,” he said, also adding that the option was the closing down of some SOCs should it be needed.
The MTBPS stated that South African Airways (SAA) will get a recapitalisation of R5 billion, while the South African Post Office is set to get R2.9 billion.
National Treasury said South African Express will get an injection of R1.2 billion.
Ministers reacting to the mini-budget said it provided direction amid a difficult fiscal environment.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Zweli Mkhize said Mboweni’s policy statement showed that he was frank about the fact that government was at a crossroads in terms of its financial standing, while outlining a path that the public service would follow to turn the corner.
“The Minister had a very tight spot from which to move but he has done well because he was open and frank, but at the same time, he was able to say there are ways we can get ourselves out of this,” Mkhize told SAnews.
On the issue of struggling municipalities, Cogta was looking forward to working with the Finance Ministry to implement interventions in the form of recovery plans.
In the mini-budget, Mboweni said government is “acutely” aware that some municipalities are facing capacity constraints. Municipalities owe more than R23 billion to service providers, mainly Eskom and water service agencies.
Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said despite the constrained fiscal environment, her department would work tirelessly to use the Finance Minister’s guidance to offer support to small and medium enterprises.
These businesses, said Zulu, contribute to the fiscus through taxes and to the economy through job creation.
“This is where we come in as the department, to [translate all these things that were said and show] what they mean to small and medium enterprises… and black-owned enterprises,” said Zulu. - SAnews.gov.za