Budget 2017: Gordhan warns against interfering with the Treasury

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his top officials.
Image: Trevor Samson
The National Treasury and other similar finance structures and institutions are critical and should not be “messed with”‚ says Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan was addressing journalists a few hours before delivering his budget speech.

Gordhan seemed unfazed about speculation of a cabinet reshuffle‚ which could see him or his deputy Mcebisi Jonas make way for Brian Molefe.

“Am I going to be fired? Do you know something I don’t know?” asked Gordhan in response to a question on his uncertain future.

He said the treasury is a “highly professional” institution and treasuries and finance departments in general were “virtually indispensable”.

“It’s in the interest of generations of South Africans to come that there are acouple of institutions that you don’t‚ in inverted commas‚ ‘mess with’‚” said Gordhan.

Does it matter who is a minister in a particular department?

“It depends where you are. We work very well as a team so I suppose it does matter in terms of kind of ideas that are generated … One of the things about institutions is that it can take many years to build a solid institution. It takes a very short time to mess it up. You can spend 10‚ 20 years building for what you think is resilience‚ and overnight someone can come in and dismantle this and say I don’t like it‚” said Gordhan.

Delivering his speech‚ Gordhan turned to the rich and wealthy introducing a new tax bracket‚ while announcing an increase in social grant spend.

Gordhan could also be seen as being tough on big business by placing emphasis on the combating of tax avoidance.

He had a word particularly for multinational corporations who continue to use inconsistencies in global tax rules to their advantage and to avoid tax liabilities.

“South Africa intends to sign a multilateral instrument this year which will assist in the updating of treaties and will reduce the scope of aggressive tax avoidance activities‚” said Gordhan.

He added “patronage and kleptocracy” are “two diseases we don’t want in this country”.

Gordhan’s deputy‚ Mcebisi Jonas‚ said “political decay reflects itself more strongly in the strengths of institutions”. “The more there is political decay in the country‚ and I’m not suggesting there is – you will have to judge for yourself – but you would actually see the impact of it and how strong institutions begin to be‚” said Jonas.

Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile warned on the impact of the high turnover of finance ministers on treasury staff morale.

Fuzile has been with the national treasury for about six years and has already served under four different ministers‚ from Trevor Manuel to Des van Rooyen who lasted for a few days.

He said it takes a bit of time to get into a sort of “great chemistry” and working well with a minister.

“I would serve under anyone‚ but I’m also human. Going very directly to your question‚ a high turnover of ministers‚ I have experienced it‚ damages morale. And I know this for a fact‚” said Fuzile.

– Tiso Black Star Group/TimesLIVE

Leave a Reply