Parliament has finally approved a M23, 7 billion budget for the 2020/2021 financial year. The budget was unanimously approved on Monday despite threats by some legislators to withhold their votes to pressure the government to increase their salaries from M35 000 to a staggering M75 000 each per month.

But in the end, the MPs did not fulfil their threats and the Appropriation Bill was unanimously approved by legislators from across the political divide.

Afterwards, a relieved Finance Minister Thabo Sofonea said he was happy the budget had been passed and the government ministries now had to get down to fully addressing the populace’s demands for efficient service delivery.

“I am very thankful that the bill has been passed,” Mr Sofonea said, adding, “Now the money can be released so that work can be done”.

Home Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa said although the approval of the budget was long overdue, he was also happy it was finally done. He said the various ministries should now be allocated all the funds due to them to enable them to offer efficient services to the nation.

The M23, 7 billion budget is actually higher than the M21, 7 billion budget proposed by then Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro when he presented his budget speech to parliament on 26 February 2020. Mr Sofonea did not say why the approved budget was higher than the initial estimates. The government has previously said that additional funding is needed to tackle the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which had not been factored in when Dr Majoro, who is now prime minister, presented the budget speech in February.

About M18, 1 billion has been set aside for recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure has been budgeted at about M5, 6 billion.

The budget will be financed by government revenues amounting to about M17, 1 billion; external loans worth about M2 billion and donor grants worth M858 199 144.

The Ministry of Health was allocated the lion’s share of M3, 1 billion to enable it to tackle Covid-19 among other things.

It is followed by the Ministry of Education and Training which was allocated about M2, 8 billion and the Finance ministry which was given M1, 7 billion.

The rest of the ministries and other public offices were allocated as follows: Trade and Industry (M292 498 085); Development Planning (M1, 1 billion); Agriculture and Food Security (M666 174 038) and Foreign affairs (M453 994 761).

The Ministry of Communications Science and Technology received M219 985 523; Public Works (M937 208 200), Energy and Metrology (M862 919 535); Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation (M156 742 108); Prime Minister’s Office (M129 893 609); Labour and Employment (M55 246 804) and Tourism, Environment and Culture (M118 782 117).