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SONA 2024 | IEJ urged President to prioritise marginalised communities

Azra Hoosen | ah@radioislam.co.za
9 February 2024 | 11:00 CAT
3 min read

The Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), along with several other organizations, has urged the President to prioritise the needs of the country’s marginalised people, placing them at the forefront of the State of the Nation Address. They called for the government to align its policies and implementation efforts accordingly, offering hope for building an economy that prioritises care, addresses the scourge of gender-based violence, promotes equality, and centers the needs of the most vulnerable.

In the IEJ’s open letter addressed to the President, emphasis is placed on the need for alignment between government policies and the needs of marginalised communities.

Liso Mdutyana, a Tax and Budget Policy Researcher with the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), speaking to Radio Islam, stressed that they require an honest assessment from the President regarding the government’s fulfilment of funding commitments, particularly given past instances where budget cuts have undermined crucial programs. “It’s imperative for the President, as the head of Cabinet, to take responsibility and address the gap in thinking and actions among various departments that should be working in concert. For instance, inadequate funding for higher education and healthcare by the National Treasury necessitates self-assessment by the government,” he said.

The IEJ urges accountability for the Minister of Finance and National Treasury, emphasising the necessity of allocating sufficient funds to policy priorities and ensuring a macroeconomic policy stance that aligns with the developmental agenda.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa stressed the crucial role of functional local government in delivering services. He acknowledged that many municipalities are failing in governance, finance, and service delivery, impacting people’s daily lives. To address this, measures such as professionalising the civil service and appointing skilled individuals to key positions have been initiated and collaboration between the Presidency, National Treasury, and COGTA aims to bolster technical capacity and enhance planning, coordination, and fiscal oversight at the local level, according to President Ramaphosa.

In advocating for greater redistribution of wealth through taxation, Mdutyana suggests the government needs to utilise all available resources effectively, including reducing unjustifiable deductions for higher-income learners. Additionally, implementing a taxation of net wealth could provide the government with additional funds to stimulate the economy.

Mdutyana reiterated that the President needs to tackle the persistent high levels of poverty and inequality; issues that cannot be resolved in the short term solely by the private sector.

President Ramaphosa claims fewer South Africans go hungry and fewer live in poverty, citing that in 1993, South Africa faced a significant poverty challenge, with 71.1 percent of its population living in poverty, but suggests a consistent decline in these numbers under the democratic government.

“In the midst of the pandemic, we introduced the special SRD Grant, which currently reaches some 9 million unemployed people every month. We have seen the benefits of this grant and will extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support for the unemployed,” he added.

The address also mentioned they are working to ensure that subsidised housing is located close to work, education and services.

Mdutyana believes there should be more direct action from the public, including the possibility of taking the government to court in areas that fall within the jurisdiction of the judiciary. He suggests holding the government accountable can also be achieved through voting.

The press release additionally advocates for bold investment in South Africa’s infrastructure and economic expansion. It highlights the positive impact of government programs like the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant and the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) in combating unemployment and poverty. There is a significant emphasis on addressing gender-based violence and advancing equality. Furthermore, the IEJ also calls for increased redistribution of wealth through taxation to finance vital social and economic initiatives.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Yusuf Moosagie and Liso Mdutyana from the IEJ, here.

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