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Did the 2021 Budget Speech make mothers count?

Yesterday, we watched the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, deliver the 2021 Budget Speech and lay out the national government’s spending priorities. As mothers and mother-supporters, we wanted to know:

  • Will the budget address the premature ending of crisis and COVID-19 relief support to children and families?
  • Will there be a continuation of support to ECD centres in some form?
  • Will the National Health Insurance (NHI) fund be a priority, or has it been affected by funding being reallocated towards fighting the pandemic?
  • Will there be dedicated funding for female entrepreneurs and employees?


Here is what we know based on the speech:


On social grants and COVID-19 crisis relief of distress funding:

The budget speech had a strong focus on fiscal sustainability, tax changes (incl. personal tax cuts) and the economy. Other than a large investment in vaccines, the social sector did not feature prominently. There are extensive and urgent social needs, aggravated by COVID-19, that are not being met.

Child hunger and malnutrition have not been directly addressed. In spite of all the alarming data about how mothers and children are faring due to the pandemic, the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant has only been extended for 3 months and it will expire in April.

And whilst there a R10 increase in both the child support and foster care grants, these are below inflation and will not make it easier for mothers to feed the children in their care.


Support for the ECD sector is underwhelming

R3.5 billion has been allocated to improving access to early childhood development services for provinces. Other than this, centres cannot expect funding beyond the already established subsidies they receive.


On the NHI

Other than the message that COVID-19 will remain the priority for health care, there wasn’t much news on the healthcare front.


There was no special focus on support for women in the economy, despite women workers and business-owners having paid the highest price.


So, whilst we know that the effects of the pandemic were gendered and women have borne the brunt of the fall-out, the budget tabled yesterday has done little to ease the wounds women are currently feeling.