The Guard

The Truth On Board

By Bongani Tshabalala

BLOEMFONTEIN – The 2021 provincial budget is tabled amidst tough economic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic as well the associated uncertainties engulfing recovery of global economies.

The South African economy declined by 7.8% in 2020 and is expected to rebound to 3.3% in 2021 before tapering off to 1.5%in 2023. The Free State growth also dropped by 6.8% in 2020 and is also projected to increase by 2.8% in 2021. 

Treasury MEC Gloria Brown says the implications of this subdued economic performance is evidenced by labour market statistics; the national rate of unemployment stood at 32.5% in the last quarter of 2020, while that of the Free State was at 33.4%.

Treasury MEC Gloria Brown.

Brown pointed out that unemployment rates, particularly among young people in the province, is a cause for concern. She said one way of address the scourge is to invest in infrastructure as well as to ensure that all projects reach completion. She underpinned the need to stimulate the economy in the province and that infrastructure as of high importance.

According to the provincial budget for the 2021/22 financial year, R38.6 billion is the amount from which the department of education will be allocated the biggest chunk, a whopping R15.475 billion, followed by the department of health with R12.135 billion and the department of police, roads and transport which gets R2.882 billion.

The department of social development gets R1.442 billion; the department of sport, arts, culture and recreation R638.523 million; Destea R604.792 million; the department of public works R1.739 billion; the department of agriculture and rural development R783.067 million; Cogta R416.598 million; Legislature R258.823 million; the Office of the Premier R662.675; treasury R331.491 and department of human settlements R1.256 billion. 

Infrastructure investment by private and public institutions expected to create job opportunities in 2021. 

The governance cluster has been allocated for promotion and instilling of good governance with a budget of R1.670 billion in this financial year while the economic development cluster is allocated R7.265 billion; the social cluster is allocated R29.691 billion.

“The Free State is faced with the challenge of creating jobs at quicker rates than before as the unemployment is on the rise; stronger efforts are necessary to accelerate employment creation and to support the enterprises that create jobs, defeating the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating economic recovery is our priority,” Brown concluded.