Spending R5-million on a State of the Nation address after-party is still too much, even if it is R2-million less than last year.
As Parliament reopens for the year and sits, this week, to hear the president's State of the Nation address, parliamentarians and others in government must be feeling notably warm inside.
Not only is this year the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, and an election year in which the ANC will surely triumph, but Cabinet ministers, MPs, MPLs and those with their hands on the levers of power in general got a pretty good pay hike this year.
Two thousand selected members of the political elite will also be treated to a lavish dinner at the Cape Town International Convention Centre to celebrate the delivery of the State of the Nation 2014.
As detailed in an article in this week's paper, these increases are below the inflation rate. But the hike is off an already high base, as shown by the president's salary – and he, commendably, declined a pay rise. He already earns more than either the British prime minister or the French president. And let's not talk about the massive perks he gets by way of special high-tech fortifications and fire-fighting equipment at his private estate in Nkandla. And the helicopter flights to and fro, and the jet, and …
Set beside such numbers, the budget for the post-address banquet is small change: a mere R5-million or so, about R6-million having been budgeted for the event as a whole. This expenditure, we are told, is lower than last year, in line with the finance minister's pleas for a bit of austerity from our notoriously profligate and wasteful public service.
We applaud. Parliament and its organisers have saved a whole R2-million on the 2014 address. They've even put a R100 000 cap on the amount of booze they'll buy for the revellers, which will send a strong message to those municipalities spending too much on entertainment and food … er, possibly.
It's still a lot to spend on patting oneself on the back though. That's R5-million to celebrate a State of the Nation address from which, on the basis of past form, no one expects very much. And it doesn't help to counter the impression that our government is not good at much except spending money.