South Africa

Budget 2024 an ‘anti-poor budget’, says Black Sash

Budget 2024 is anti-poor and the small increases in social grants are not enough to help the people who need them the Black Sash, says, but experts question if the grants will be sustainable in the long term.

The Black Sash called the Budget anti-poor and pointed out that although the president referred to a targeted basic income grant in the State of the Nation Address, the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, failed to speak on how and when mechanisms for this kind of support would be implemented.

“Does this mean that the President was making empty promises?”

The organisation also says Budget 2024 predictably focused on South Africa’s electricity crisis but did not speak to any of the impoverished and marginalised communities in South Africa and the reality that these communities form the majority. It warns that youth unemployment, rising food prices and inaccessible social grants are a recipe for economic instability.

“We are very disappointed that the budget fails to consider the poor and most vulnerable. We are concerned that National Treasury is tightening the purse strings to prevent comprehensive social security.”

ALSO READ: Budget 2024: Godongwana pulls purse strings as social grants receive minimal increases

This is what poor South Africans wanted from Budget 2024

Therefore, the Black Sash says, the minister, as well as the rest of government, must prioritise the welfare of communities and people faced with poverty who live from hand to mouth. Black Sash calls on government to urgently:  

  • Recognise the urgency for government to fulfil its constitutional imperatives and prioritise service delivery in the public sector over fiscal consolidation.
  • Acknowledge that job creation must be complemented by comprehensive social security with permanent social assistance for the unemployed, stimulating economic growth.
  • Put plans into action to respond to the impact that the energy crisis has on the poor.
  • Placing South Africans first must become the order of the day and the organisation implores the minster and Treasury to consider the fiscus from a human rights perspective rather than affordability.  

This is what the Black Sash anticipated to hear from the finance minister:

  • An increase to all social grants aligned with the inflation rate.
  • An inflation equivalent increase and permanent SRD Grant for the unemployed aged 18-59.
  • An increase in the Child Support Grant to the food poverty line of R760.

“The budget failed to speak to the majority in South Africa who are unemployed and hungry and it failed to consider government’s constitutional obligations to ensure that the rights in the Bill of Rights are upheld and resourced.

“As the President affirmed in his State of the Nation speech, the Constitution must stand at the centre of government’s work to build a better life for all. Minister Godongwana failed to prioritise the fulfilment of basic rights.”

ALSO READ: Budget 2024: trying to do more with less

Minimal increases in social grants do not address lived reality

In addition, the organisation says, the minimal increases to the Child Support Grant and Foster Care Grant are shocking and fail to address the lived reality and struggles faced by caregivers for children. It quotes Nosipho Radebe who receives a Child Support Grant, who says: “I use the child support grant to pay for transport and school fees. The school fees are expensive and I still owe transport money. So, I don’t have money to support my children.”

The one aspect of the budget that the Black Sash welcomed is the increase in funds to the school nutrition programme. “It is reassuring to know a few more children will benefit from it this year.”

According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group the Child Support Grant of R510 was 33% below the Food Poverty Line of R760 in February and 46% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet of R938.25 which is almost double the amount of the Child Support Grant.

“This is concerning for several reasons, including the existing statistics on child malnutrition and the increased level of child stunting, as well as the important Constitutional obligation that the rights of a child are of paramount importance in all matters concerning the child.”

The Black Sash also says the increase to the early childhood development grant from R1.6 billion to R2 billion over the medium term is welcomed to start addressing child hunger but notes that much more needs to be done.

ALSO READ: Budget 2024 is pro-consumers as long as you don’t smoke or drink

Less revenue, but an increase in grants

Nkosinathi Mahlangu, youth employment portfolio head at Momentum Metropolitan, notes the minister mentioned that less tax revenue was collected than projected, but in the next breath mentioned an increase in grants.

“While people need to live, the concern is that this will not be sustainable in the long term as we simply do not have the resources.”

Mathapelo Sipamla, head of agency distribution at Sanlam, points out the social grant increase might not stretch people’s monthly budgets. “The minister announced increases in social grants to support the nation’s most vulnerable populations and while these increases are welcome, the real-world impact is modest. The increase may not significantly alleviate households’ financial pressures.”