Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan will tomorrow up the defence budget, but by just R500 million. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu let slip the figure at a media briefing at Parliament earlier today.
Sisulu said her department had asked for an additional budget of R5 billion for the year starting April 1. “If we get that, we will then just scrape by,” she told journalists while speaking at a briefing on the planned activities of the international cooperation, trade and security cluster for the next financial year. Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu then handed Sisulu a note, after which the minister said the budget would be up R500 million only.
Gordhan’s February 2010 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) pencilled in R33.931 billion for the new year, a figure confirmed by Sisulu as R34 billion. The likely allocation for her department for FY2011/12 then is roughly R34.5 billion. This is up from the R30.7 billion allocated last February for the year that ends next month. The amount was reduced in October to R30.4 billion, however.
The cuts were part of an “efficiency saving” imposed on the department amounting to R8 billion over three years from last April. The cuts came at a time when state revenues were down sharply because of the 2008-9 recession and government was under pressure to deliver better social service. But the cuts also came as Members of Parliament, defence officials and commentators warned that the budget – even before the efficiency drive – was insufficient and that cost-cutting was damaging the military. “Our budget is woeful,” Sisulu said this morning, adding that she did not want to say that too often, as it “does not endear us to Treasury.”