Date: Thu, 9 Jul 98 09:07:55 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: SOUTH AFRICA: Civic Society Wants A Pro-Poor Budget
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** Topic: SOUTH AFRICA: Civic Society Wants A Pro-Poor Budget **
** Written 7:47 AM Jul 8, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
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Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Civic Society Wants A Pro-Poor Budget
By Farah Khan, IPS
29 June 1998
JOHANNESBURG, Jun 29 (IPS) - In what promises to be a showdown
with the government, South African churches and non-governmental
organisations said the government must reverse its macro-economic
policies and draw up a new pro-poor budget.
"Time is against us. The time is coming when no eloquent
political rhetoric will quench the anger of the poor," said Rams
Ramashia, the president of the South Africa NGO Coalition.
"Let us not push the poor to the point where they will wage a
class struggle which may tear apart the very fabric of the
democracy for which so many tears, sweat and blood was shed,"
These were strong words from civil society groups, which
together with the churches, is increasingly picking up the mantle
of the poor. The anti-poverty summit held at the weekend is the
latest volley in their arsenal of weaponry to force government
Although the South African government spends a sizeable chunk
of its budget on poverty alleviation measures, its initiatives
have not made a dent in the problem.
Poverty threatens to tear apart the fabric of the continent's
newest democracy, and it could also delay the African Renaissance
which Deputy President Thabo Mbeki has made his clarion call. In
South Africa, almost one in two Blacks -- the majority of the
population -- live below the poverty line, and 40 percent of the
economically active population is unemployed.
Ramashia released at the weekend summit, the first report on
the countrywide 'Speak Out On Poverty'. The poverty hearings, held
during the past two months, were modeled on South Africa's Truth
Commission hearings and provided an opportunity for the nation's
poor to speak out. More than 500 representatives of the poor
Joblessness and a lack of access to land and resources emerged
as the biggest issues. The NGO Coalition says many of the problems
it heard remain the legacy of apartheid and the skewed economy it
But it concluded that the new government could do more to
address the needs of the poor by extending better services and
monitoring whether budget allocations were reaching those who
needed them most. The most important message to emerge from the
hearings was that poor people did not want hand outs.
"The expectations of the poor of our land are so modest that
we should be ashamed that these expectations are not met,"
"People are not expecting highly-paid jobs, company cars,
flushing toilets, tarred roads and street lights. They were hoping
for the opportunity to send their children to school, to be able
to have a few containers of water a day without having to walk
many miles, to get their 470 Rands pensions to feed their
grandchildren and to get a piece of land to work on," he added.
The poverty summit attracted representatives of government and
business; it is hoped that a broad front of interests can be built
to work on better ways of battling poverty.
But that battle needs resources and government's immediate
attention has been turned to an economic crisis which has
mushroomed -- the impact of the Asian crisis on South Africa's
Its currency (the Rand) is under attack from speculators who
this weekend sent it to new lows against the American dollar.
There are fears that consumer interest rates - already at their
highest ever - will climb even higher. This could prompt an
economic meltdown where an obvious repercussion will be less
public spending on the services needed to alleviate, if not
But the African National Congress-led government is also
approaching its second election and the need to secure the vote of
its traditional constituency could be the opportunity for the anti-
poverty coalition to push for a change in economic thinking.
They want government to invest more in the "social wage", a
package of pro-poor measures which includes easier access to
credit, training, job creation and social welfare. The churches
are also pushing government to reschedule its debt repayments in
order to free more from the public purse for poverty programmes.
"Debt repayment is the second largest item on the (national)
budget. I have held meetings with government to consider this,"
said Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.
Origin: Harare/ECONOMY-SOUTH AFRICA/
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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