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Increases in grants not enough

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Social rights group Black Sash believes the increase in the budget for social grants is meagre and will not cover the rise in the cost of living. In Wednesday’s Budget speech, finance minister Pravin Gordhan announced that 11-and-a-half-billion-Rands would be added to social grant allocations.

But Black Sash national advocacy manager, Elroy Paulus said the increment in grants is not commensurate with inflation.

At Parliament on Wednesday, Paulus was one of 25 individuals tasked with analyzing the budget speech prior to Gordhan’s address. The group had access to senior government officials when clarification on the budget speech contents was required.

Issues raised included the calculation of the increases on social grants, specifically the child support grant that is paid out on a monthly basis to 16.9 million beneficiaries.

According to statistics, one in every three South Africans receives a grant. The grant system is, therefore, an important contribution to decrease poverty.

“If you calculate the real value of social grants, the R 80 increase, up to R 1,500 on state old-age pension, is not keeping up with inflation,” Paulus explained.

Paulus said government needs to take into consideration the inflation that has occurred as a result of the drought.
The lack of an appropriate increase, Paulus explains, “prevents people’s purchasing ability for their basic needs – preventing the poorest in South Africa from making ends meet.”

The increase of social grants should be proportionate to annual inflation and should, therefore, mirror the constitutional right of citizens to have their socio-economic rights progressively realized.

Paulus explained that requesting further deductions would be a challenging task considering the current economic problems that the state is experiencing.

Paulus further noted that Gordhan in his speech was tasked with keeping market sentiments at bay, due to concerns relating to “the agencies that rate companies that determine the credit rating of all countries.”

He asserted that Gordhan also had to keep “soon to be electorates” happy.
“I think that a good thing that the minister did was not increase vat.”

VAT, Paulus asserted, has in the past disproportionately affected individuals.

Wealthy people spend a smaller amount of their income on basic goods, as compared to the poor, who spend their entire income on; food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.

Paulus asserts that the reality of inflation will only be realized later in the year.

Black Sash is a human rights organization that advocates against social injustices, and has recently celebrated its 60th birthday. The organization focuses on rights based education, citizen monitoring, and engage in advocacy initiatives.
One of their biggest campaigns is the Hands off Our Grants campaign, also known as ‘HOOG’, which began in 2012 as a result of unauthorized deductions by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

“We point fingers at government, and rightly so, they are spending our public money, but there are parties that are responsible for a lot of hardship,” Paulus noted.

He explains that certain financial service providers are engaging in financial predatory and immoral behaviour, whilst claiming to assist the poor.

“I am referring to especially grant benefices that have experienced unauthorized deductions,” Paulus stated.

Through citizen monitoring initiative, Black Sash has found that many SASSA beneficiaries have experienced unauthorized deductions. Individuals have reported deductions that have left them with only R 60 instead of their entitled amount of R 1,040.

Paulus urges SASSA to hold its service provider, Cash Paymaster Services (Net1), accountable.

“There are other players responsible for the hardship,” Paulus concluded.

VOC (Thakira Desai)

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