7 things CEOs want to see in #Budget2019

2019-02-20 08:58 - Lameez Omarjee
Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza. (Photo: Chris Yelland, EE
Eskom chair and leader of the CEO Initiative Jabu Mabuza. (Photo: Chris Yelland, EE Publishers) ~ EE Publishers

The CEO Initiative wants government to demonstrate its commitment to fiscal discipline and growth boosting measures, and this will require unpopular choices, the CEO Initiative has said.

The group issued a statement on Tuesday highlighting their expectations for the budget, which will be delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in Parliament on Wednesday February 20.

The CEO Initiative is composed of business leaders from various sectors, and is led by businessman and chairman of both Telkom and Eskom, Jabu Mabuza. Other notable CEOs include Standard Bank group CEO Sim Tshabalala, Nedbank CEO Mike Brown and Discovery CEO Adrian Gore.

Growth focus, fiscal resilience

In its statement, the CEO Initiative said SA needed to be "substantially more investor-friendly", focused on growth and "fiscally resilient" amid economic and social challenges.

The group also expressed concern that state-owned enterprise (SOE) Eskom is the "biggest risk to the national fiscal position" and will affect the ability of the country to attract investment and achieve the needed economic growth.

"Achieving a future in which we have both a viable and affordable energy mix for the country and a structure of SOEs which contribute positively to the growth and prosperity of our nation, will require government to make unpopular choices," the CEO Initiative said.

"We believe government knows what these are, and we urge them to be resolute in executing those choices."

The CEO Initiative wants the Budget to provide details on the following:

1. An accurate indication of the status of the national fiscal position, including the capacity of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) "to collect tax in a fair and transparent manner".

2. Measures for increasing fiscal discipline and to reduce the fiscal deficit, as well as plans to reduce the public sector wage bill and limit the "escalating" contingent liabilities of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The CEO Initiative acknowledged that there are improvements in governance at SOEs but said that the budget should provide direction for SOEs in terms of their strategic and operational turnaround plans.

3. "Tangible plans" to hold public sector officials accountable to their mandates.

4. Details of "exactly" how government will improve the investment environment by addressing policy, legal, regulatory and administrative issues.

5. "Growth-enhancing reforms" and details of which investments will be prioritised to promote growth.

6. Improving education, particularly early childhood development, and how this will be funded. "The country needs a properly educated citizenry in order to build a competitive and growing economy."

7. Details on how key institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority will be capacitated, to hold those accountable for their wrongdoing, as this is essential for "rebuilding" public trust.

"We acknowledge that the various Commissions of Inquiry into state capture, SARS and the Public Investment Corporation are an important start to publicly unpack the extent to which our execution capacity and ethical compass have been hollowed out.

"We urge the NPA apply the law equally to all and to speedily hold to account those implicated in wrongdoing," the CEO Initiative said.

In its concluding remarks, the group acknowledged the progress made in the country in the past year, but added that a "great deal more work" lies ahead through efforts to "strengthen" the fiscal framework and "recapacitate" key institutions.