Around 60% of the South African government’s budget (excluding interest on debt) is currently spent on social grant payments.
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa says in his weekly newsletter that just over 11 million households currently receive free basic services which include power, water and sanitation.
In addition, 50 million South Africans do not have private health insurance at this stage and also receive free health care.
Basic education is now provided to more than 13 million learners. Many of these children go to school for free, says the president.
In his newsletter, Ramaphosa refers to a recent report from the World Bank which states that South Africa’s grant and social assistance systems play a critical role in alleviating poverty. According to this report, South Africa’s existing systems and programs are “efficient, well-targeted and offer significant benefits to the poorest households”.
“The money we spend on social protection is not wasted,” says Ramaphosa. “It makes a real difference to people’s lives – now and in the future.
“As we work to rebuild the economy, to create more jobs and create opportunities for emerging businesses, we will continue to invest in the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”
Ramaphosa does not agree with the critics who believe that social allowance breeds dependence on the state.
“While some people refer to the various forms of support for poor people as handouts or as a wasteful burden on the fiscus, our social support programs are an investment in South Africa’s people.
“It is not correct to say that these programs breed dependency or discourage people from looking for work.”
Ramaphosa also refers to a paper published in 2014 by the Brookings Institute. It reads: “Social assistance may be just what many people in South Africa need, enabling them to actively pursue a job search, get out of a poverty trap and take control of their lives and direct their future. “