FFC questions whether Mboweni's Budget is in line with the Constitution
FFC deputy chair Michael Sachs said this could be the first time that a Budget had been tabled, which envisaged a reversal in achieving what was set out in the Bill of Rights.
CAPE TOWN - The Fiscal and Financial Commission (FFC) has questioned whether the Budget tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last week is in line with the Constitution because spending cuts in key areas could erode people’s basic rights.
FFC deputy chair Michael Sachs on Tuesday said this could be the first time that a Budget had been tabled, which envisaged a reversal in achieving what was set out in the Bill of Rights.
Sachs made it clear that the independent advisory body was not saying the Budget was inconsistent with the Constitution, but that Mboweni had not gone far enough to convince the FFC that it indeed was.
The FFC briefed a joint meeting of Parliament’s finance and appropriations committees on Tuesday.
Sachs, the former head of Treasury’s Budget office, spelt out the FFC’s main worry: “Our central concern with this Budget is we are not convinced that it is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. We’re not saying it is not consistent, we are saying we are not convinced. And we think that the minister of finance has not gone far enough to convince us that this Budget is in line with the Constitution.”
Sachs cited examples of cuts to spending in health, education and on social grants to prove his point.
For example, less money will be spent on major hospitals in the 2021/2022 financial year than in 2019 – down to R44bn from about R44.7bn.
“But the Constitution says the State has an obligation to ensure a rising floor of access to health services. So, this raises a question.
“The Constitution also says that nobody may be refused emergency medical treatment – and yet the budget for emergency medical services in 2021 is R7.2bn, whereas the budget for emergency medical services in 2019, before the pandemic, was R8.2bn. In other words, emergency medical services are a billion rand down on what they were in 2019.”
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Social grant spending is set to fall in real terms over the next three years, yet more and more children are going hungry.
Sachs said it was up to the executive to explain to Parliament and to South Africans what steps were being taken to defend people’s rights in terms of the Constitution.