Our province and the entire country are living in surreal and challenging times as we charter the waters of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Allow me at the onset to pass on the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones during this health crisis. Our prayer during this difficult time is that you will find comfort and solace. It would be amiss of me not to also acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice and commitment of our front line soldiers – our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers – who have, on a daily basis, placed their lives on the line to try to stem Covid-19. You are the true heroes of this pandemic. We thank you and salute you and our prayers and thoughts remain with you.
The debate on the 2020 Division of Revenue Bill is mostly an academic exercise as the fiscal impact on the province’s revenue is yet to be fully realized. The projected revenue cuts in both the equitable share and budget cuts of R2bn, R2.7bn and R3.3bn over the MTEF were already going to impact heavily on our province and going to prove to be an enormous challenge in addressing needs of the people of our province. Added to this will be the additional provincial budget cuts in the region of R7bn to fund the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. These additional cuts exclude the loss of revenue the province will sustain as a result of the economic fallout during the pandemic.
In short – we are facing challenges that none of our predecessors have ever had to face, bottom line is that we have to do more with less.
What this pandemic has exposed is the socio-economic disparities that continue to beleaguer our nation and which have yet to be adequately addressed. Added to this is evidence of a state that, in some quarters, remains failed in its capacity and unable to deliver effectively on its required mandate. Essentially, what KZN lacks is a capable ethical state.
Our future has never been more uncertain but to use the clichéd statement, ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’. Now is the time to build a capable state – founded on consequence and accountability – if we are to limit the economic damage on our province. Mediocrity and complacency can have no place in our future.
Taking into account the reduction of our provincial Division of Revenue, we have two simple choices going forward – the high road or the low road. A look at the current challenges highlighted by the pandemic indicates that we have, for far too long, been traveling on the low road. The socio-economic disparities alone are evidence of this.
One thing is for certain. It cannot and must not be ‘business as usual’. This would only drive our province deeper into economic despair and escalate socio inequalities. Slogans such as “back to basic” just will not do it. The current health pandemic is an opportunity to present a united front in tackling the hard times and the numerous challenges that await us.