Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Budget allows business to sparkle but dulls on environment
Johannesburg, February 26, 2014 – Environmentally-minded South Africans listened anxiously to the budget speech delivered by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan this evening. Their anxiety fuelled by the passing of the fast-tracked Infrastructure Development Bill by the National Assembly the night before. The Bill aims to streamline efforts from various government spheres to approve and build large infrastructure projects, such as more coal-fired and nuclear power stations, which will badly degrade environmental and human health in South Africa. The Bill falls under the legal co-ordination of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) set up by President Jacob Zuma in 2010. Several concerns have been raised that the Bill will increase procurement corruption.
In the Budget Speech, Gordhan claimed that South African businesses should “sparkle across the globe”. Meanwhile the very mechanism designed by the National Treasury to assist business to “sparkle”, the underpriced Carbon Tax, has been delayed. The Carbon Tax has the potential to offer government the financial opportunity to adapt to climate change and clean acid mine drainage. Further support is lent to businesses through streamlining regulatory and licensing approvals for environmental impact assessments, water licenses and mining licenses. A mine can now be opened in under 300 days; but mines don’t sparkle once they have been depleted nor for communities who live with the health hazards during operations and the bleak aftermath. The coordinated infrastructure investment programme will further catalyse opportunities in mining- the painful sparkle in South Africa’s eye.
However the R 1 trillion spent in infrastructure over the past five years, mostly on the overdue coal-fired power plant Medupi and improving the Transnet coal line, has hardly made South African business sparkle. Rather it has left South Africa with a rather dark smudge on its reputation in international climate change negotiations. Nonetheless, Gordhan will invest R 847 billion in more of the same over the next three years. A large portion of the R 847 billion will be dedicated to the water scheme aimed at supplying the coal complex in the Waterberg with South Africa’s scarce water reserves, a process which may result in severe transboundary water pollution in the SADC region. The coal complex will also incur negative impacts for the agricultural sector where one million jobs are hoped to be created. A small portion of the money will be used to improve poor household access to Free Basic Electricity, which is a small price to pay for the rest of the grave environmental damage that this year’s budget will pay for.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:
Senior Programme Manager
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 082 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 079 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za
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Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. Our aim is to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources.