Johannesburg – The R500 billion relief package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to mitigate the economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic is a necessary, robust and well-considered response, the African National Congress’s (ANC) caucus in Parliament said.
In a national address broadcast live on television on Tuesday night, Ramaphosa said the money would support South African individuals and businesses stricken by a five-week lockdown his government imposed from March 27 to try and contain new transmissions of the coronavirus which has taken a heavy toll around the world since being first reported in China late last year.
He noted that the pandemic had resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike due to the lockdown, deepening poverty and increasing hunger as well as damaging South Africa’s economy. Its severity would continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come, Ramaphosa warned.
The R500 billion to be directed towards fighting the pandemic would include the reprioritisation of around R130 billion within the current budget, while the balance would be raised from local sources such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund and global partners and international finance institutions, he said.
In its response, the ANC caucus said the rescue package and other measures announced by Ramaphosa, such as tax relief for local companies, were the result of a social compact involving the government, business and labour, and applauded what ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina called “the sense of great patriotism and selflessness that accompanied this social compact”.
“Caucus further welcomes strides made on the health front through the mass screening and testing community-based initiative undertaken thus far and salutes health workers on the frontline for their heroic efforts amidst many challenges,” the ANC caucus added.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance said many of the measures announced by Ramaphosa echoed those the party had been calling for to safeguard not only the lives but also the livelihoods of millions of South Africans hit hard by the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“The president has our support in rolling out these interventions. He also has our support for the economic reforms he committed to, because without such reforms this R500 billion injection will be short-lived and ultimately wasted,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a statement.
“It is encouraging that the president spoke … of approaching institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank for the bulk of the funding for this package, particularly since these institutions have made available low interest, unconditional loans specifically for Covid-19 relief.”
“It is also encouraging to hear the president speak of a phased re-opening of the economy following on a risk-adjusted approach based on scientific evidence,” Steenhuisen added.
African News Agency/ANA
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By ANA Reporter