The following speech was delivered in Parliament’s debate on the 2019 Medium Term Budget Policy.
The story of this budget and the circumstances that inform it is the story, repeated so often in so many parts of the world, of the inevitable collision between the vain ideology of state control, and what is fair and right for society.
Our country continues to suffer low growth, and a shrinking economy, as confirmed by StatsSA yesterday, and continues to suffer ever-growing unemployment lines, and growing poverty, but still, the government will not admit the truth that everyone now knows: the state control project has failed.
But our main objection to this budget has not been that it continues the lie of arrogant ideological stubbornness. Indeed, the Finance Minister is one of those who sees clearly the truth, and says plainly what needs to be done.
Our main objection is that the budget is so deeply and so indefensibly unfair to the 10 million unemployed South Africans, and to those living in poverty.
It is simply wrong to ask the public, and particularly the poor, to carry the cost of your failed dogma. It is ethically indefensible.
The truth is, we can build a fairer society. We can build a society in which public resources are used to care for the poor, grow the economy, and spread opportunity to all.
Let us assess it on that yardstick.
Over the course of this budget process, the Democratic Alliance has shown three things:
- This budget takes money from basic services on which the public at large, and the poor in particular, depend. It redirects those funds to the bailing out of zombie state owned entities.
- This budget takes money from the pockets of working families and redirects that money to bailing out zombie state owned entities.
- This budget does not present a credible plan to stabilise national debt. Indeed it sees a further explosion in national debt of R1.5 trillion over the next three years, which will burden present and future generations of taxpayers with higher taxes to pay off that debt.
Over the next three years, just under 3 million babies will be born in South Africa. They should be born into a country that offers opportunity, hope, and fairness. Instead, they will each be born with R500 000 in debt to pay off on behalf of the state, before they have even taken their first breath.
So, this budget pinches from the poor wrangles more from working families and burdens newborn babies.
Taken together, these three points show a budget which does not advance fairness in our society. If anything, it advances inequality and deepens poverty. It fails all of the basic tests.
That is why we will not support this budget. Neither should this House.
This House should not support any Budget that contains bailouts for zombie state owned companies.
Eventually, the stubborn ideology is confronted by reality. The fact is that the state should not run an airline, and I suspect that by the time we meet in February for the main budget, we will not have a state-run airline.
This is a key test of credibility for the government and for Treasury. If the government capitulates, prostrate themselves before unions and offer more guarantees to lenders, they will show themselves totally incapable of doing what is necessary to rein in government spending.
If they fail this test, the government will come here to present the main budget in February with no credibility left.
SAA must be placed into business rescue to prepare for break up and sale as soon as possible.
Not one further cent of public money, or a guarantee backed by public money, should be spent on SAA.
Minister Gordhan says all South Africans must support SAA. That shows that even now, after R20 billion in bailouts in recent years, the Minister still cannot pry himself away from his ideology, no matter what it costs the poor.
No, no, no, Minister. The most patriotic thing for South Africans can do is to help shut down SAA.
The public could force SAA into closure in a matter of days, by simply refusing to fly on it, so that it can be wound up and sold off.
This will not be a restful Christmas for the Minister of Finance.
By February, he must deliver R160 billion in cuts to the public wage bill, he must get debt under control, he must present a plan to slash the deficit, and he must lead the government in shutting down SAA.
And he must do it without cutting services to the poor, and without taxing working families.
That is what we judge him on today, it is what we will judge him on in February, and it is why we will not support this budget.