Youth unemployment is top priority

Members of the public will be on tenterhooks as Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivers the last national budget speech before the upcoming elections expected to take place between May and August.

Godongwana will need to answer simple questions on whether the ANC government will have the wherewithal to reduce the high youth unemployment.

There are calls for Godongwana to use the speech on Wednesday to increase the R350 social relief distress grant and produce measures to create jobs. Others have proposed he should raise the value added tax by 0.5% to 14.5%, something that will put more pressure on low income households choked by high food prices.

“[Godongwana should announce] a massive expansion of the Presidential Employment Stimulus to accommodate at least 1-million people by April and 2 million by November 2024, to help break the back of youth unemployment,” Cosatu acting spokesperson Matthew Parks told Sunday World.

Parks also argued that raising the social relief distress grant will help beneficiaries to recover from the grant’s value that has been eroded over the years due to runaway inflation.

Introduced in May 2020, the social relief grant is offered to SA citizens, refugees, asylum seekers and special permit holders aged between 18 and 60 years at a cost of R35-billion a year. 

“There should be a massive injection of financial support for industrial, localisation and export programmes to boost our manufacturing sectors and jobs,” he said.

Parks added there should be additional resources for key law enforcement organs to turn the tide against crime, corruption and tax evasion.

“He should also announce a stabilisation package for local government, including the 36 municipalities routinely failing to pay staff and those struggling to provide quality municipal services.”

Financial institution Investec predicted SA’s budget deficit to narrow to 5% of GDP in the financial year 2024/2025. “Gross debt has grown to 76% of the GDP and is projected to climb to 78% over the next three years,” said the bank. 

Black Business Council chief executive Kganki Matabane said Godongwana should prioritise economic growth and job creation. “The budget should be a step to fund interventions that will attempt to deal decisively with the 75% of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is the single most significant threat to our democratic project.

“We have raised the issue of funding of small businesses, black businesses, women businesses and businesses owned by people living with disabilities. They will then create employment but also contribute to the fiscus in the form of taxes.”

He said it would be a bad idea to raise VAT. “Businesses and individuals are still trying to recover from the negative impact of Covid-19 and other challenges. Increasing VAT may not be an ideal preferred solution,” he said.

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