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The ANC opposition in the Western Cape says the Democratic Alliance's budget for the Province is long on self congratulation, but short on initiatives to help uplift the poor.
Mcebisi Skwatsha, member of the Provincial Legislature, says the DA's focus on what it calls the ‘open, opportunity society' does little to level the playing fields in an already unequal society that would allow the poor to access such opportunities.
"This budget doesn't go out of its way to give the poor access to opportunities," Skwatsha says. "We can certainly expect more toilets without walls. The DA openly says that despite an increase in the housing budget, it will be building fewer houses, but creating more "serviced sites". They promise 150 000 "serviced sites" in the next five years and 18 250 this year alone.
"What is that? A euphemism for creating more informal settlements? Is that what the DA sees as a solution to our housing problem? Is this what they call dignified spaces for our people?"
It's ironic, still on the subject of housing, that you are looking at acquiring land for housing opportunities close to economic opportunities etc, and that you're looking forward to "inclusionary and mixed housing developments" when your party went out of its way to prevent the ANC-led government from doing just that when we proposed that land such as this was used for all, not just the rich in the green and leafy suburbs like Constantia, Mowbray, Pinelands, Oude Molen and Plumstead.
While Skwatsha commended Alan Winde, MEC for finance, economic development and tourism, for his budget allocations to health and education, he questioned Winde's professed freeing up of R2,1bn as a result of what it calls ‘efficiency savings'.
"Where did this money come from?" Skwatsha asks. "What services were ‘reprioritised'? Did this money come from pro-poor projects? Or from grants once given to the important work of NGOs as the Premier threatened in her State of the Province Address? From social welfare? What did the DA regard as being unimportant so as to free up such a large amount of money?"
The ANC-led government in the Western Cape supported labour-intensive service and infrastructure programmes that increased the long-term growth potential of the Western Cape's economy and facilitated higher exports. It was designed to help increase the social security net, improve the State's capacity to deliver essential services and plan for climate change and its impacts. The ANC believes it is vital for the health of the province and of the nation to actively decrease the gap between rich and poor.
"The DA's budget does not push back the frontiers of poverty," Skwatsha says. "And while we welcome the spending in health and education, we can't say that that's enough for the poor. Under the ANC-led legislature, 335 000 learners received school meals; 346 000 learners did not pay school fees and 880 000 people received social grants. These are just a few examples of our commitment to protect the vulnerable. We would like to see that kind of intervention where the Province's poorest people are concerned."