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A WASTE OF OUR TIME

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Finally government has swallowed its pride and admitted to being faced with a dire cash flow crisis caused by its own failure to implement financial policies that could have prevented it.

This confession goes as far as blaming the waste on the gravy train travel expenditure, as well as the CTA charges that have been ballooned by a splurge on a fleet of vehicles that cannot be monitored. Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said the insatiable appetite for travel has seen ministries reaching 90 per cent of the allocated travel budgets for the whole year. This is absolutely ridiculous! Evidently travel is the new get-rich-quick scheme because none of these ministries can explain how these trips have benefitted a country that is now literally crawling on its knees. One minister is reported to have spent E1.7 million on travel in a year alone. To bear the brunt of this reckless spending are civil servants who are demanding a cost -of-living adjustment.  The Finance Minister told parliament yesterday that the wage bill has reached levels of highly unsustainable proportions. He said the Southern African Customs revenue (SACU) can no longer fully cater for the wage bill.

He warned that any percentage increment would result, in a restructuring of the civil service, which means job losses or alternatively having the workers experience an unprecedented few months without salaries. Then again, we are not too surprised because repeated warnings to stop bulging the wage bill through the free-wheeling hiring of security personnel fell on deaf ears. Now security spending devours the second biggest allocation of the national budget, while farmers cannot grow food as tractors are without fuel and there are no farming subsidies as promised. In all honesty the Finance Minister was soft in his speech yesterday, which reflects the kid-glove approach to fiscal prudence.  He promises to return to Parliament soon to present a detailed Financial Consolidation Plan that would limit excessive and careless spending of government resources, reigning in the fiscal deficit and prioritising Capital projects based on their contribution towards improving economic growth. We ask; what’s new? We need to see a hard line approach to expenditure control. Confessions alone don’t offer solutions. The minister should stop the hypocrisy. He cannot talk of a ban on cost-of-living adjustments but cannot put a ban on all trips with immediate effect. At the end of the day, he wasted everybody’s time yesterday.

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