YOU MAY NOT know it, but our government is spending R80 billion this year on welfare – eight times more than 1994’s expenditure. 11 million South Africans, almost a quarter of our population, now receive social grants, up from 2.6 million at the inception of our democracy.
In 13 years, clean water has reached 20% more people to a total of 88% of our population. There has also been a 22% rise in electricity usage which now reaches 80% of our population.
And yet despite all this, half our black population lives on $1 a day or under. In 13 years of freedom, unemployment has swollen by an official 25%. The number of South Africans living in relative poverty (calculated on income) increased from 40.5 (in 1996) to the whopping 47% currently.
Why, you may wonder – especially considering SA’s unprecedented economic growth, foreign direct investment at record highs, booming tourism and a giant tax surplus.
Why have some journalists remarked that areas of the former homelands are in a worse state than much of Zimbabwe?
First of all, the economic growth we have experienced has scarcely trickled down to depressed rural regions and its impoverished people.
Secondly, although government does have record amounts of money to splash around, this is often deployed ineffectively or not used at all. Unspent millions allotted to both provincial and national departments often end up in going back to the treasury.
Corruption and patronage is rife in all three spheres of government while skills shortages – government’s euphemistically termed “capacity problems” are acute. This perhaps has been most visible in rural municipalities where negligence, chaos and corruption was so rife that Project Consolidate was launched in an attempt to inject much-needed skills and management into local government.
This post continues next week. Facts and figures courtesy of the “Financial Mail”