Let’s plant anew, says Mboweni in maiden budget speech

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In his maiden budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni called on South Africans to plant anew to, amongst others, achieve accelerated economic growth, increased tax collection and reconfigured state-owned enterprises.

In a heart-warming opening to his speech, in which he later pledged R3.7 billion to assist new farmers seeking to acquire land, Mboweni encouraged the nation to “sow the seed of renewal and growth. But for the seed to be prosperous… we must first cultivate the soil. Once we have planted the seed, we must nurture it, water it, and protect it from the extremes, the elements and time.”

He told Parliament that as a part-time farmer he knows that in order for the people to “possess all these things”, as mentioned in Zechariah 8:12, “we have to plant anew. Despite our best efforts, sometimes ravages and risks, such as pests or rot, could attack our green shoots, but we must persevere. We must prune and pluck away at the rot until there is growth. This we must do as a collective.”

Mboweni echoed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s earlier State of the Nation Address, referencing what he described as the current “robust debate on land”. He pledged to support private sector investments in agriculture to specifically support new farmers. A further R1.8 billion is allocated for the implementation of 262 priority land-reform projects over the next three years.

Other highlights from his budget speech include:

  • Fight against illegal cigarettes: Mboweni issued a stark warning that the Illicit Economy Unit launched in August last year will fight the trade in illicit cigarettes and tobacco. Food For Mzansi earlier reported that more than 15 million illegal cigarettes are smoked in South Africa every day, threatening the jobs of approximately 10 000 agri-workers. A pack of 20 cigarettes goes up by R1.14;
  • Increase in so-called sin tax: The Finance Minister announced an increase in excise duties on alcohol and tobacco. The excise duty on a can of beer goes up by 12 cents to R1.74. A 750ml bottle of sparkling wine will now cost 84c more whilst the duty on a bottle of whiskey will go up by R4.54 to R65.84; and
  • Social grants: The Treasury also allocated R567 billion for social grant payments. The grant values will increase as follows: R80 more for old age, disability, war veterans and care dependency grants,  R40 more for the foster care grant to R1 000, whilst the child support grant will increase to R420 in April and to R430 in October.
  • No salary increases for MP’s: Ramaphosa announced that members of Parliament and provincial legislatures and executives at public entities will not be receiving a salary increase this financial year.

The Finance Minister warns, however, that government will this year spend R243 billion more than we earn. “We expect revenues of R1.58 trillion and spending of R1.83 trillion. Put another way, we are borrowing about R1.2 billion a day, assuming that we don’t borrow money on the weekend. This coming year, interest expenditures will be R209.4 billion. This is R1 billion per day. We are masters of our own destiny. Our determination to regain our fiscal prudence will form the basis of our economic recovery.”

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