SA to spend billions on infrastructure

first_imgThe funds South Africa is borrowing are not being used to fund failed banks, as is taking place in the United States and Europe, but to construct roads and power stations, classrooms and wards, modernise technology and transform public service delivery, Manuel noted. The Bus Rapid Transit system will receive R12-billion over the next three years. Government spending of R787-billion on public infrastructure over the next three years will push South Africa’s budget deficit to 3.8 percent in 2009, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced on Wednesday. Of the budgeted R787-billion for the next three years, R390-billion will be spent by state-owned enterprises, Manuel said. Unpopular choices pay off The government’s prudent spending policy in the past meant it could now spend on things such as transport, health and education where other governments were not able to. In 1996, South Africa’s public debt was 48 percent of GDP and rising, and the National Treasury came up with a macroeconomic strategy which confronted the problem boldly and decisively. The state airline has been fraught with financial difficulties in the past, with the government having to come to its aid on numerous occasions. Delivering his 2009/10 Budget speech in Parliament in Cape Town, Manuel said that decreased demand for South African commodities and lower outputs, coupled with decreased domestic growth, meant the government had to borrow more funds in order to finance planned public infrastructure projects. “Reducing the budget deficit was neither easy nor popular . but it was the right thing to do, and the outcome is that year by year the burden of debt service costs has declined and resources have been released to spend on education, health care, housing and infrastructure. Road, railways, classrooms, clinics … The 2009 Budget makes a further R6.4-billion available for public transport, roads and rail networks; R4.1-billion for school buildings, clinics and other provincial infrastructure projects; and R5.3-billion for municipal infrastructure and bulk water systems. “This also means that today we are able to respond to the economic downturn boldly and decisively.”center_img Housing and the eradication of informal settlements remain at the forefront of the government’s infrastructure investment plans, he said, adding these issues significantly affected both employment and poverty reduction. The R25-billion Gautrain project, which recently enjoyed a successful maiden test run with journalists aboard, is nearing completion, with the link between Sandton and the OR Tambo International Airport to be completed by early 2010. “Together with investment in roads and public transport, these constitute one of the largest areas of expansion of public sector spending, and are rightly prioritised as part of our response to the current deterioration in employment and economic activity.” “We are also budgeting R1.6-billion for South African Airways to support its turnaround strategy, which includes reducing costs and improving efficiency,” Manuel said, adding: “I am sure that the House will agree with my hopes that this will not be a recurring allocation.” “Although the budget deficit will rise to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product [GDP] next year, debt service costs will remain moderate over the next three years, at about 2.5 percent of GDP,” Manuel said. “In the past three years, the municipal infrastructure grant programme has spent about R32-billion. Over the next three years, infrastructure grants to municipalities total R67-billion, and a further R45-billion will be spent on the Breaking New Ground housing programme. The government will also allocate R25-billion over the next three years to the Rail Commuter Corporation to invest in new trains and introduce new train routes. The budget for rail safety inspectors to reduce accidents and delays is also being increased. “This is possible because we had the courage to make the right choices over the past decade.” State-owned enterprises 11 February 2009 Source: BuaNewslast_img read more

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Rural Ohio counties added to USDA StrikeForce Initiative

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Ohio Union at The Ohio State University last week to announce the expansion of the USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative into 11 high-poverty counties in Ohio. Launched in 2010, more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have already helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects and invest $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America.USDA’s StrikeForce delivers promising, sustainable results by building partnerships with community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities, faith-based and other groups to help challenged communities shape a future based on local assets and regional strengths. To date, StrikeForce technical assistance helping USDA invest nearly $7.5 billion into 970 counties across the U.S. to create jobs, build homes, feed kids, assist farmers and conserve natural resources in some of the nation’s most economically challenged areas.“If farmers in these Ohio counties are looking for additional credit, it becomes available through StrikeForce,” Vilsack said. “It also raises the awareness of some of our conservation programs, the micro-loan program and the high-tunnel house program. That raised awareness results in more loans being made.”StrikeForce was created to address persistent poverty across America. USDA identifies census tracts with over 20% poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach and technical assistance.“The next step is for our team at USDA to travel to the designated counties, sit down with local officials and ask them what they need in their area,” Vilsack said. “This has to be a bottom up system.”Currently, 85% of the country’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. More than one-third of rural Americans and one-in-four rural children live in poverty.Finding uses for these new funds in the determined Ohio counties will begin with meetings that include officials from USDA, the Ohio Rural Development and Ohio Farm Service Agencies and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Shortly thereafter, the process will transition to an outreach effort in the StrikeForce zones.“We’ll then survey local officials, businesses and stakeholders in those areas about what they think the biggest needs in their counties are,” said Tony Logan, State Director for USDA Rural Development for Ohio. “Then we’ll get to the drawing board and figure out which agency needs to apply their program dollars in each county.”Although many of the dollars tagged for the StrikeForce Initiative will go towards needs that may not be tied directly to agriculture, some will be used for issues related to the farm and used to aid in the water quality concerns in the state.“In Lucas county, these funds will be used to not only help with the poverty there, but also to start up some new conservation efforts in that county because of the recent water issues they have seen,” Logan said. “Farms across the state will also benefit with new farm loans for beginning farmers and veterans, which will be a sweat spot for the StrikeForce counties as well.”StrikeForce counties in Ohio include: Adams, Athens, Fayette, Guernsey, Jackson, Lucas, Meigs, Morgan, Pike, Scioto and Vinton.last_img read more

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The world awaits the Olympics to kick off

first_imgThe last few hours before the world’s biggest sporting spectacle begins is always filled with tension and suspense.And as the city of London gives final touches to its seven-year-long preparation before the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday night, everyone wishes the Games are peaceful and each of the 304 sporting events is fought in the right spirit.Gone are the days when the extravaganza called Olympic opening ceremony was kept as a secret. It has become almost a tradition now for other countries to spy on the drama that will unfold in those three hours plus.Glitz, glamour, light and sound, all that will go into the opening ceremony being directed by Danny Boyle has already been detailed. But there can still be a huge suspense as what the world will finally see through live TV signals can be different.The weather in London has been pleasant after an incredibly wet summer. The sun has been shining the last few days, which means the locals can wear bare minimum clothes.Four years ago, when Beijing wanted to show the world its sporting might and ability to organise a high voltage opening ceremony, they wanted to fire ‘rockets’ in the air to disperse the clouds!In London, no such thing has been planned and whatever nature decides will be accepted. The big problem for LOCOG, organisers of the London Olympics, is who will light the Olympic flame.Lord Sebastian Coe, head of LOCOG told Mail Today on Thursday who will light the torch is still undecided. From the man on the streets to social media like Twitter, there has been intense speculation.advertisementFive-time Olympic gold medallist rower Steve Redgrave and decathlete Daley Thompson are touted as favourites but Kelly Holmes, winner of the 800m and 1500 m in Athens, 2004, could also got a look in. But don’t be surprised if the organisers decide that more than one top former British athlete gets to do the honours.After the opening ceremony, it will be 15 days of pulsating action where riveting rivalries in track and field and swimming have already attracted attention, aroused interest and instilled desire.Usain Bolt vs Yohan Blake in the 100m and 200m and Michael Phelps vs Ryan Lochte in the swimming pool are events which the world is waiting for. Contests of these nature are played out only once every four years which is what the Olympics is all about.Looking at the global rivalries, the way China has grown as a sporting giant will be watched with interest. In the Beijing Olympics, China topped the medal tally with 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze for an aggregate of 100 medals. The United States of America was second with 36 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze while Russia were third.As the hosts, Britan will look to enhance its image as a serious sporting superpower. In Beijing , their tally did swell to 19 gold, 15 silver and 15 bronze for an aggregate of 47 medals.It is gold medals which matter the most and Britain will hope that its newest stars like Wimbledon runner-up Andy Murray and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins can fire their chances.Well before then opening ceremony, there have been a few goof-ups. At the women’s football event, a wrong flag of South Korea was shown to the North Koreans causing the match against Colombia to be delayed by an hour.Even though the organisers had to apologise to the North Koreans, it has already left people wondering what more gaffes are in store.For sheer precision and punctuality, what Beijing did as a host city was almost machine like. For London to hold a glitch-free Games will not be asking for too much despite a dip in their economy.The host nation is hoping that the Olympics will boost its economy, but each host has only been counting deficits at the end of the Games.And what about India’s chances at the London Olympics? There is an air of expectancy that this time around India can win more medals than the three at Beijing.In archery, shooting, wrestling, badminton, boxing and even mixed doubles, there are medal chances.Feats of Abhinav Bindra, Ronjan Sodhi, Deepika Kumari, Saina Nehwal, Vijender and the new boxing breed plus the wrestlers raise huge hopes. So does MC Mary Kom who represents India as women’s boxing makes its debut.With adequate government funding and the corporates also chipping in well now, Indian sport should do well. After all, post Beijing, the medal haul at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Guangzhou Asian Games did show an improvement.advertisementGone are the days when the Indian athletes competed in the Olympics just to mark their presence. The new age heroes believe in themselves and are ready to surprise the world.last_img read more

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