Gauteng economy on the up, says provincial minister

Progress was being made in strengthening Gauteng’s economy but unemployment was still a concern, Gauteng minister of finance Paul Mashatile said on Tuesday.

“[W]hen we report back to the people of Gauteng [in 2009] we will be able to say boldly and without fear of contradiction that we have successfully completed our five-year mandate and that a firm basis has been laid towards the achievement of the goals of 2014,” he said.

Mashatile was speaking during the tabling of the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) and the Provincial Adjustment Appropriation Bill in the Gauteng legislature.

He said the provincial economy continued to show strong growth, and since 2000 the average provincial economic growth rate had been stronger than that of the national economy.

“We continue to make significant progress in enabling faster economic growth and job creation; fighting poverty; building safe, secure and sustainable communities; developing a healthy, skilled and productive people; building an effective and caring government; and deepening democracy and promoting the constitutional rights of our people,” he said.

Mashatile said more needed to be done to accelerate job creation and attention needed to be paid to targeting and supporting job-creation sectors.

These included value-added manufacturing; information and communications technologies; tourism; the creative industries; and the competitive sports sectors.

Mashatile, referring to Premier Mbhazima Shilowa’s state of the province address earlier this year, said a “dent” had been made in unemployment.

He said statistics showed that 426 000 new employment opportunities were created in Gauteng between March 2002 and March 2006.

In March 2007, unemployment in Gauteng stood at 22,6%. This was down from a high of 28,8% in 2001.

Mashatile said it was the third year that the MTBPS was being tabled to the House, which indicated the “massive progress” the province was making on aligning its budget.

“The MTBPS outlines our strategic priorities and the total revenue that we will use to fund these priorities over the next three years.”

He said three areas would be given priority.

These were building Gauteng as a global city region; implementing the Gauteng Social Development Strategy; and building the capacity and the organisation of the state.

Mashatile said the Provincial Adjustment Appropriation Bill of 2007 would revise the Appropriation Act of 2007, which was approved by the House in February this year.

He said for the 2007/08 financial year the province anticipated a net surplus amounting to R276,9-million.

“This represents an improvement from a budget deficit of R336,2-million that we tabled to this house at the beginning of the financial year,” he said.

Revenue for the 2007/08 financial year was adjusted from R39,9-billion to R40,5-billion while expenditure for the 2007/08 financial year was also adjusted from R40,3-billion to R41,2-billion.

The adjustment in revenue had been necessitated by upward adjustments to both national and provincial funding.

He said national funding—in the form of equitable share and conditional grants—had increased by a total of R320,5-million, while provincial funding—in the form of own revenue and financing from the surplus—had increased by R156,3-million and R789,8-million respectively.

Mashatile said the increase in expenditure took into account additional allocations from the national government of R246,8-million, unforeseen and unavoidable expenditure allocations of R231,8-million, roll-overs totalling R229,1-million and other adjustments of R173,8-million.

Mashatile said the province’s immediate task was to ensure that the funds were spent efficiently and that it derived value for money.

“We must continue to be intolerant to both over- and under-expenditure ... We must continue to strengthen our capacity to sustain the momentum we have to built and accelerate the delivery of our programmes,” he said.—Sapa

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