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The national budget has failed to live up to the bold plans of boosting job creation and fighting corruption as outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his state of the nation address (Sona)‚ union federation Cosatu said on Wednesday.

In its reaction to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s address‚ Cosatu said the budget was “deafeningly silent on government’s plans to create jobs and fight corruption”.

Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks also expressed disappointment at the announced VAT increase‚ saying it would hurt workers and their families.

Gigaba announced that VAT would increase from 14% to 15%‚ the first such adjustment since 1993.

“We‚ therefore‚ decided that increasing VAT was unavoidable if we were to maintain the integrity of our public finances‚” he told the National Assembly.

Parks said Cosatu was cognisant of the pressures the government was seeking to juggle but was concerned that this was coming on the “backs of struggling and middle classes”.

Cosatu questioned why the government had “run away” from increasing taxes for the wealthy and for corporates.

“In essence‚ politicians and their friends have looted the state and now nurses‚ teachers‚ police officers etc. must foot the bill‚” Parks said.

Cosatu said the R9bn budget allocation to the Department of Trade and Industry was also problematic‚ saying the amount was equal to the budget allocated to politicians and their bodyguards‚ as well as to the Department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Cosatu described this as problematic‚ saying the Department of Trade and Industry was charged with the reindustrialisation of the economy.

The union federation was also unhappy with plans to curb expenditure on the public service wage bill.

“Public service posts have been cut by 3% over the past two years. Nurses and doctors are battling to cope. The police headcount will be cut while crime is rising. Teachers are faced with rising learner ratios‚ often at levels of 60 to 100 learners in a class‚” Cosatu said.

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