Some expect Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to announce drastic cuts to the civil service. At the weekend, Mboweni said the Civil Wage Bill is unsustainable and impractical. This echoes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise during the State of the Nation address, to shrink the size of the government.
But this could put Mboweni on a collision course with organised labour.
The South African government employs more than two million civil servants.
That’s teachers, nurses, doctors, police officers, and administrative staff across National, Provincial, and local government – and the cost of paying them is hurting the economy.
Government’s wage bill is currently sitting at almost R600-billion – nearly a third of the national budget.
Mboweni says it’s unsustainable, hinting at an announcement of job cuts during his Medium Term Budget Speech this Wednesday.
Plans to downsize the civil service are not new, though.
President Ramaphosa spoke about the need to cut the size of government, in his State of the Nation Address in February.
“It is critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources.
We will therefore initiate a process to review the configuration, number and size of national government departments,” he said.
But to strike a balance, Ramaphosa would also be expected to cut the size of his cabinet, not only as a practical measure but also as a gesture to show that he’s serious about reviving the economy.