Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that Cyril Ramaphosa’s bloated cabinet should consist of no more than 25 members as government struggles to gather the massive public sector wage bill, which currently sits at more than R500-billion a year.
Mboweni was speaking at a media briefing hosted at Parliament ahead of his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement presentation on Wednesday.
Mboweni said that if he was asked, he would advise Ramaphosa that having a cabinet with 35 ministers with each one of them having a deputy made no “financial and political sense”.
“If he asked me about the size of the cabinet‚ I would say preferably not more than 25…probably 20 is more than ideal‚” said Mboweni.
“China is a big economy and I think they have about 25 ministers or something like that. We have no economically‚ financially and politically understandable reason that you can have an executive that’s up to 70 people – that’s what I would say to him.”
Mboweni added that the public sector wage bill accounted for 35% of consolidated government expenditure.
He called on government departments to be strict in their management of overtime payments‚ promotions and improvement of other conditions of service.
“Over time‚ wages have crowded out other goods and services and capital investment‚ particularly in health‚ education and defence. In some cases‚ this has contributed to a build-up of unpaid invoices in provincial departments‚” said Mboweni in his speech.
“Around 85% of the increase in the wage bill is due to higher wages‚ rather than headcount increases.”
The increased public expenditure‚ coupled with a declining revenue collection‚ will see government borrowing more to finance some of its policy priorities.
This means government’s annual debt service costs will rise from R162-billion this year‚ to R221-billion by 2021.