May 28, 2004

No more schooling under trees, says KwaZulu-Natal Finance Minister

Newly appointed KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu has outlined the delivery outputs of the R37.8 billion budget he tabled in the provincial legislature. Addressing a post budget presentation media conference, Mr Mabuyakhulu said his budget contained tangible deliverables in the fields of education, health, social welfare, transport and housing. The R13 billion education budget would build 1.322 classrooms and 1.375 toilets, reduce the learner/classroom ratio from 41.9 to one to 40 to 4 and supply approximately 300 schools with permanent potable water supply. This will help alleviate the problem of the shortage of schools and classrooms, as some of the pupils in the province are still learning under trees.

In health, which is under pressure for HIV and AIDS, the R8.7 billion budget will focus on dealing with the scourge of HIV and AIDS. In this regard, the provincial government will increase the number of sites available for voluntary testing and counselling for HIV and AIDS cases from 450 to 600. Mr Mabuyakhulu said the budget would also see an increase in the number of admissions at community health clinics from 17.4 million to 18.3 million. In this sector the budget will also help complete the construction of 71 new facilities, complete 49 rehabilitation and replacement projects and complete 307 upgraded projects.

In the Social Welfare and Population Development Department, one of the departments that had seen over-expenditure in the past financial year, the R10.2 billion allocated will increase a total number of beneficiaries from 1.7 million to 2.1 million. It will also increase the pension and disability grants by R40 to a maximum of R740 while the child support grant will increase to R170 per month. Mr Mabuyakhulu said the R1.8 billion transport budget would go towards improving and maintaining the provincial road network.

This will include the construction of 81km of surfaced roads, 420 km of gravel roads and 76 causeways, rehabilitation of 660 000 square metres of surfaced roads and maintenance of 740.000 squared metres of surfaced roads. This budget will also create 131.000 employment opportunities in the labour-intensive road construction and award 20 390 Zibambele maintenance contracts mostly to poor provincial women and widows. In the housing sector, its budget of R936 million, will complete 47 projects in terms of the provincial housing development plan, build 20 000 houses in terms of the project development programme and upgrade 2 300 hostel units. However Mr Mabuyakhulu warned all departments to tighten their expenditure and remain within their budgets, as they would be no bailout of overspending departments. "You spend no more and no less of what you have been allocated. Government is a business and it will have to be conducted as such," he said. (Bua News, Pretoria)

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