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12/03/2020

Land reform, jobs, crime, cannabis, poor municipalities, and oil and gas resources were just a few topics students in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences wanted answers for at a National Treasury budget debate held on Wednesday 11 March at Nelson Mandela University.

Treasury senior budget analyst Barileng Khumisi unpacked the national budget presented in February for the audience at the Business School on the Second Avenue Campus in Summerstrand.

“Things have got worse since the last budget, we are in a recession, companies are closing down and people are losing jobs hence you will see a decline in the projected tax revenue,” Khumisi said, adding that it had been revised down by R10.7 billion.

Students put Khumisi and her colleague Andisili Best on the spot with several probing questions.

“My one concern is crime, it deters foreign investors and is a really, really big problem. What is Treasury doing about it?” asked Soyama Ramncwana.

Nyasha Chirikure said the government’s national job fund was mainly aimed at skilled workers, “but what are you doing to help the semi-skilled and unskilled workers?”

Third year B Comm student Khanya Mavovana  asked for more state owned enterprises in alternate fields such as agriculture while second year economics student Nikki Zibi asked a question on everyone’s mind: “Why is our expenditure more than revenue?”

On the recent exploration for new oils and gas in South Africa, Madiki Kganyago wanted to know how government would make these assets “a national treasure”.

Land reform was key for economics student Karen Ndhlovu: “According to Section 25 of the Constitution, if there is no compensation, what will happen to mortgages at the banks, how are they going to recoup their money?”

Vusi Khumalo wanted to know if there was progress towards a regulatory framework to boost cannabis.

Sonwabile Wolela responded to the fact that the Road Accident Fund (RAF) liabilities were increasing rapidly.

“How is treasury looking at over-claiming for RAF, is there any insurance scheme that might mitigate these losses?” he asked.

Replying to students, Khumisi said although Treasury coordinated the allocation of funds at a global level, individual departments decided on specific areas to tackle, such as crime or land reform.

She admitted the ever-increasing budget deficit was a challenge.

“The scary part is that interest payments are growing and it is getting to an unsustainable level.

“With each new priority there should be new funding to cover these. That is the only  way we can fund the Eskom and SAA bailouts.

“To boost the economy the country should be investing in infrastructure and  rural development but instead most of the money is spent on salaries.

“There is a widening gap between revenue and expenditure with debt-service costs making up an increasing share of the budget deficit.”

In a reference to her audience, Khumisi said the biggest chunk of the budget went towards student funding as a result of the 2015 and 2016 #FeesMustFall movement.

“This is for you sitting here - you account for the biggest part of the budget in the whole country!

“#FeesMustFall came in at an unexpected time so we had to borrow for that. Do we let you guys not get the funds you require or do we go out and borrow?”

It was a good-natured reference, however, as Khumisi’s area of speciality at the Treasury is in the higher education and training field. After the debate she said she had found the students’ questions thought-provoking and relevant.

Her colleague Andisile Best also said it had been an exciting opportunity to find out what the students’ concerns were, and he hoped more than one might consider a career at the National Treasury after graduation.

Business and Economic Sciences Faculty executive dean Prof Hendrik Lloyd said the debate had been a chance for students to find answers from national experts to the “burning questions” of where tax money went.

He said it was also a chance to put in to practice the theory they had been learning in the classroom, and to see economics in action.

Faculty economics lecturer Asanda Fotoyi was programme director, introducing speakers and taking questions, and Prof Ronney Ncwadi, director of the School of Economics, Development Studies and Tourism, gave the vote of thanks.

View the gallery of photos from the event

Contact information
Modiehi Modiehi
Public Relations Intern
Modiehi.Masheane@mandela.ac.za