In the National Budget 2015 Speech, Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene announced that the government expenditure ceiling would be reduced by R25billion over the next two years. However, this means little to us taxpayers, who will be forced to cough up more for taxes, petrol and electricity levies this year.
The 1% increase in personal income tax may sound slight but the psychological impact remains profound, especially when the prevailing public perception of government is dourly pessimistic, after enduring the havoc wreaked on our country by state wastage and corruption. No South African is enthused about having to hand over more of their hard-earned cash to fund a government plagued by scandal and incompetence.
Motorists are similarly despondent about the fleeting low fuel price, as Nene announced that, after 1 April, there will be an acute rise in the general fuel tax and Road Accident Fund levies, totalling 80.5 cents.
To add insult to injury, Nene further cautioned in the National Budget 2015 Speech that the economic outlook was indefinite, with slower growth and higher interest rates looking possible in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the advent of an out-of-budget wage increase does not inspire much confidence in the government’s supposed plan to decrease personnel expenditure.
The disconnection between the SONA’s intense focus on the Freedom Charter and the glaring absence thereof in the National Budget 2015 Speech, nor mention of National Health Insurance or investment spending, suggests that we are bound to watch the state neglecting to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ on repeat, in 2015. Likewise, it would appear that the chronic incongruity between our government’s ambitious political rhetoric and the bleak economic realities we endure as consumers are set to remain the grim order of the day, going forward.
Cosatu has criticised Nene’s silence on the three ticking time bombs tormenting our country –poverty, unemployment and inequality. Continuing with business as usual, while disregarding 53% of South Africans living in poverty, an unemployment rate of 34.6% and our status as the world’s most devastating example of inequality will only cause us to blindly and incautiously tear towards our imminent breaking point.
Taxpayers will pay the price as long as government-owned companies malfunction and the public service continues to be swollen and unproductive.
On the faintly bright side, the National Budget 2015 will allow for more school books, medicine grants for the poor, more qualified teachers, better roads, a central e-tender portal and a greener, more efficient economy.
Even so, with the tax hike and rise in petrol prices blotting out any optimism, along with the serious repercussions these increases will have for food, services and commodities, now is truly the time to cut your losses, settle your debts and start saving up for a long, cold winter.