Civil society organizations will picket outside parliament today, ahead of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.
Public spending is expected to be squeezed even further, at a time when the government says it wants to stimulate economic growth with its scattered approach called the reconstruction and recovery plan.
Social justice lobby group, the Black Sash says that prior to Covid-19, the economy dismally failed to create dignified jobs and that the trend is unlikely to be reversed significantly within the next year. The group is among several pushing for a basic income grant which they believe will not only stimulate economic growth but also reduces poverty and inequality.
Black Sash is demanding that government:
– Implements permanent social assistance for those aged 18 to 59, valued at the upper-bound poverty line, currently R1,268 per month. Caregivers who receive the Child Support Grant must also qualify for this grant;
– Make the Covid-19 grant increases of R250 per month permanent for all social grants;
– Ensures that the above provisions apply to refugees, permanent residents, asylum seekers and migrant workers with special permits; and
– Works towards a universal basic income.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that the current Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant will be extended to 31 January 2021. These are for South Africans who have no income. “The crisis of structural unemployment, affecting over 12 million people, will however not be resolved by January 2021 and will continue to impact mainly women, informal workers and those living in rural areas” said Black Sash.
Furthermore, it points out that the R350 Covid-19 SRD Grant is “way below the Food Poverty Line, currently at R585, and is being further diminished by rising food prices and costs incurred to access the grant such as transport, cellphone and bank charges.”
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni requested an extension on the delivery of the budget earlier this month, a move which many suspect is due to the complexity of constructing a budget which overburdened with debt servicing costs which some controversially warn is a sign of public finances having reached a fiscal cliff.