Now, I am not an avid follower of economics and finance. And listening to a national budget speech is not my idea of fun. However, I thought I would see if South Africa’s Minister of Finance said anything relevant to the environmental field.  On the afternoon of 22 February 2017, Minister Pravin Gordhan, delivered the National Budget speech for 2017.

These are the things that caught my attention:

  • Suprisingly, Minister Gordan quoted Pope Francis1: “Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.” These same social structures are also linked to environmental problems. We cannot care for our common home if we are poor.
  • When we ‘hunt like lions’, i.e. together and in tandem, any task is possible. (The ministers words were: “If lions work as a team they will bring down even a buffalo”). A lesson from our natural environment.

Environmental issues were not discussed by the Minister. However, much of what the minister talked about would potentially have an impact on the environment, for example, infrastructure and urban development:

  • In promoting economic growth, expenditure on Infrastructure is important: “R4.2 billion for industrial infrastructure in special economic zones and industrial parks.”
  • Urban environments are also important. The minister mentioned as one of five critical priorities: “We must accelerate development of our cities, housing investment, improved public transport and urban enterprise and industrial development.

As environmental practitioners, it is important for us to play a role in this development so that it is sustainable. The minister agrees: “Can we, in this spirit, say: we have built a better South Africa, with a more inclusive economy, and all citizens living in dignity, advancing economically, over generations to come.”

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