Expect drastic Budget decision on funding free education – Gigaba

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is feeling the pressure in his search for money to fund President Jacob Zuma's free higher education plan and has warned that drastic decisions must be expected in his February Budget speech

“The concern about funding is genuine given the fact that we have announced that there is a R51 billion shortfall in the budget for this financial year. We had indicated that any additional budget programme would have to be funded in a way that does not breach the expenditure ceiling.

“Secondly, [we had indicated] that we would need to implement certain measures, both in terms of expenditure cuts and revenue enhancement, in order to take care of any additional budget pressure,” he said.

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However, he did not indicate where the cuts would be made.

Gigaba was speaking to News24 after his keynote address at the Eastern Cape Progressive Youth in Business breakfast as part of the party’s 106th birthday celebrations in East London on Thursday.

In December, Zuma made the surprise announcement for free higher education for students from households with a total income of R350 000 or less.

His decision came after the Heher Commission found that the country could not afford free education.

Opposition party EFF has been encouraging those who want to study further to go to institutions of higher learning in their numbers to demand to be registered despite some universities stating that they would not allow walk-ins.

Six people were injured following a stampede ahead of registration at the Capricorn TVET College in Polokwane on Thursday morning.

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On the free education plan, Gigaba said: “It wasn’t going to be very easy to start implementing this in a seamless way right from the outset. I think we needed to expect that there will be challenges and therefore we need to deal with those challenges.”

He added that while this financial year would prove to be a challenge for Treasury, the process would become more seamless over the next two years than it was “at the present moment”.

“The decision has been made. What we are working on are details to outline how the funding is going to be provided,” Gigaba said.

– News24 Wire