Social grant spending increased
Bathandwa Mbola21 February 2008
South Africa is to increase its disability and old age grants by R70 to R940 a month by April, and its child support grants by R10 in April and a further R10 in October to R220 a month.
Presenting his 2008/09 Budget speech in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel added that South Africa's child support grant would be extended to include children up to 15 years old from January 2009.
He said this indicated the need to review the eligibility criteria for the grant, in line with the practice in many countries, in order to reinforce the responsibilities of caregivers. "These might include regular school attendance, for example, or immunisation of children in keeping with health requirements," he said.
Manuel added that the current increases matched or exceeded inflation, and took into account the disproportionate impact of price increases on the poor.
The qualifying age for South African men for state old age pensions will also be reduced from 65 to 63 this year, to 61 in 2009 and to 60 by 2010, Manuel said. This will bring men into line with women, who already get their grant at 60.
Social grant provision is the government's biggest poverty relief programme, and the new changes will cost R12-billion over the next three years.
The total number of South African grant beneficiaries is 12.4-million, and expenditure on social assistance will be R75.3-billion in 2008/09.
The new increases are in line with the government's "war room" approach to tackling poverty in the country, announced by President Thabo Mbeki in his State of the Nation address earlier this month.
The new approach will see various government departments working with non-governmental organisations and the business community to identify interventions targeting specific types of households and to implement them with urgency.
At the same time, Manuel said, social transfers were just part of South Africa's war on poverty, and had to be matched by investment in capabilities and opportunities through skills, economic expansion and development of social infrastructure.
"To fight poverty in a holistic manner, a developmental state must balance growth in social assistance with progress on other fronts," he said. "Our budget proposals therefore reflect both a balance among various spending measures, and progressive implementation of reforms."