Business Day, 30 October 2002, Linda Ensor  HIV/AIDS programmes get big boost

CAPE TOWN Government plans to spend R3,3bn more on HIV/AIDS programmes over the next three years.

The medium-term budget policy statement tabled in Parliament yesterday said the additional funds would go towards rolling out prevention of mother-tochild transmission, post-exposure prophylaxis and further expansion of appropriate treatment regimes. This is in response to SA's growing HIV/AIDS problem.

A cabinet committee is reviewing options, costs and affordability of HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Asked whether this additional amount would be used for antiretrovirals, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said the health department was responsible for devising the programmes. He cautioned, however, that rolling out such treatment would take time.

The medium-term budget policy framework provides for real noninterest spending growth of 6,7% next year and an average of 4,7% growth over the course of the 2003 medium-term expenditure framework period. New allocations of R4,7bn this year and R57bn over the next three years have been added to national, provincial and local baseline budgets. In total R79bn in new money has been made available above the 2002 allocations over the 2003 framework period.

Adjustments for higher inflation amounting to R27,8bn over the next three years are proposed. This includes adjustments of R5,6bn to social security grants in light of higher food prices.

Government tax revenue is projected to remain at about 27% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The emphasis in government spending over the period will remain on infrastructure investment and extending the coverage and quality of social service delivery. This will be in line with the cabinet's decision to "reinvigorate programmes that seek to address the needs of the poor".

"Following successful stabilisation after 1996, the growth- oriented fiscal stance set out in the 2001 and 2002 budgets will continue, with strong expenditure growth and continued tax relief in the face of adverse global conditions.

Building on the focus on poverty reduction and infrastructure investment in the 2001 and 2002 budgets, next year's medium-term expenditure framework will allocate substantial additional resources to social security, health, education and the provision of basic water, electricity and other household services," Manuel said.

Other priorities were safety and security, improving the courts system, accelerated land reform, re-engineering the services offered by the home affairs department and funding SA's obligations to the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

The largest rise in spending over the next three years is expected to be social services this is projected to be R11,5bn higher next year.

Real health spending grows at an average of 5% over the period while real spending in education grows at 3,6%. The integrated justice sector gets an additional R2bn in 2003-04 for court administration and increases in police and prison personnel.

The net borrowing requirement is projected to rise from R29,3bn in 2003-04 to R33,8bn in 2005-06, while the budget deficit of 2,2% of GDP in 2003-04 is expected to fall to 2% in 2005-06.