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Gordhan mum on a second term

The finance minister says it is up to the next president to decide his fate.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers the 2014 Budget Speech in Parliament, Cape Town, 26 February 2014. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday refused to say whether he'd make himself available for a second term after the 7 May elections.

The minister earlier delivered his fifth Budget Speech in Parliament amidst speculation that it may be his last.

Gordhan delivers the Budget Speech in Parliament. Picture: GCIS.

Speaking on The Money Show late on Wednesday, Gordhan said he's been given a "fantastic opportunity" to serve the country for the past five years.

He says it is up to the next president to decide who carries the title for the next government.

Asked whether he'd make himself available for another term, Gordhan said simply, "Don't push me."

Gordhan is joined by President Jacob Zuma ahead of the Budget Speech. Picture: GCIS.

BUDGET A 'DIFFICULT BALANCE'

Gordhan said it's a difficult task to reconcile the various factors in government's allowance.

"Whether it's a household or a country, the most difficult thing to balance is the demand for money on the one hand and the availability of money on the other. Budgets are about making sure we keep the right balances.

"We have to keep a careful eye on how much we are borrowing, how much we are spending, what revenue we are getting and what debt service costs or interest we will be paying."

The minister says balancing spending on support for the poor and trying to support the economy itself is a crucial task.

Ensuring that South Africans most in need of assistance get what they require has to happen at the same time as ensuring infrastructure and other spending is strong enough to continue growth.

TACKLING FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT

Tasked with explaining what will be done to combat the wastage of government funds, Gordhan argued public perspective needed to be adjusted.

"We're talking about approximately R1 trillion being spent," he says.

"Of that, R380-odd billion is spent paying public servants, most of whom do their work diligently and some could improve. There's room for improvement there, but most will deliver what the public requires.

"Then we spend about R120 billion on the various social grants, which makes a huge difference to poverty. It's a very important part of any caring society and I hope we are one."

The rest of the spending, Gordhan says, is constantly monitored for efficiency and effectiveness.

Going forward, the minister says members of civil society will be invited to help ensure contracts, deals and payments are all reasonable.

'BUDGET NOT TOO CONSERVATIVE'

Addressing criticism that his Budget wasn't aggressive enough and was too conservative in its reforms, Gordhan disputed claims.

He says balancing the fiscus by ensuring that debt doesn't spiral upwards requires responsible decisions.

"I think that being expansionary without recognising the consequences of that is poor management of our finances. That is not why the public put us where we are.

"Ultimately, we have to grow this economy so that we can get more revenue. We can't just talk about the spending side."

For EWN's full coverage of the Budget Speech, go to the Budget portal or review our live blog.

Also, listen to the Whitfield's full interview with the finance minister.

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