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Feed the people and prioritise economic recovery, say People's Budget Coalition

Millions of South Africans were forced to stay home during the implementation of the hard lockdown in March when businesses shut down, with many experiencing pay cuts or unemployment.

Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - The People's Budget Coalition on Wednesday said the government's economic recovery plan would not work unless the problem of access to food and what they call an “imminent hunger crisis” is dealt with in South Africa.

As the economy continues to decline and more jobs get lost, the coalition - comprised of different civil society bodies - said the household affordability crisis had deepened dramatically and rapidly over the past several months.

Millions of South Africans were forced to stay home during the implementation of the hard lockdown in March when businesses shut down, with many experiencing pay cuts or unemployment.

While the economic recovery plan promised the realisation of mass employment creation and industry investment, the People's Budget Coalition's report ahead of the midterm budget next week, showed that households had no savings or buffers to absorb the economic shocks.

This has, according to the data, seen women struggling to feed their families or to keep them safe from COVID-19.

Most South African households are in the meanwhile living on low incomes that cannot get them through the month on the level of income earned, with electricity and transport taking up to 50% of the share.

Busi Sibeko is an economist at the Economic Justice Institute, who said, “In our human rights budget, we see that zero-based budgeting is a tool that government is attempting to use to implement austerity and in the absence of a human rights costing exercise, we do not understand how and when they will preserve expenditure for human rights.”

The report states that due to the consequences of the affordability threshold of families living on low incomes, families would continue to underspend on food, and that food would run short before end of a month.

It also warned that women would continue to get sick and children under five-years-old would be at an increased risk of stunting with long-term, irreversible effects.

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