The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), delivered by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana on 1 November, is short-sighted in that it fails to protect and prioritise the development and wellbeing of children. It continues the path of austerity budgeting at a time when increased social spending is urgently needed.
Social grants will not be increased to compensate for the previous below-inflation adjustments to the grant amounts, despite rising poverty and malnutrition among children. Provincial social development departments will have to fund the public sector wage settlement, cutting into budgets for essential welfare services that are already under-funded. Subsidies for children attending early learning programmes will remain static for a fifth year, and infrastructure funding for early childhood development (ECD) centres has been cut by R50 million.
The Treasury’s rigid adherence to fiscal consolidation, when livelihoods and the social fabric of the country are threatened, shows callous disregard for human rights. More than ever, South Africa needs to invest in young people, to build a cohort of children who are healthy and well-educated. Failure to do so will replicate the persistent intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality.