Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fisheries Minister's Budget 2013

The Fisheries Minister put her department's budget to Parliament on 29 May 2013 for the annual budget vote, which was subsequently approved by an ANC-led majority vote. 

What, if anything does the budget say? Well, it actually says nothing of substance. Did we really expect anything of substance from this Minister? 

The only notable bit of news is that the fisheries budget is set at R434 million including salaries and vessel operational and management costs. The Minister's budget was silent on four key crises afflicting her department. Not a word was said on -

  • the fishery patrol and research vessels, their status, what repairs have been effected to them to date, at what cost, and when they are expected to sail. Silence.
  • the status of the observer programme which is supposed to be up and running according to DAFF's undertakings to the Marine Stewardship Council by June 2013 (ie by next week). Feike understands that the observer programme tenders have now lapsed and the department has slashed the observer programme budget, which could render the programme obsolete. Silence.
  • rampant poaching afflicting abalone, lobsters and sharks (for fins). Silence. 
  • staff vacancies including the ever-vacant posts of DDG of Fisheries (currently occupied on an acting basis by a person with a Grade 12 qualification only and no fisheries management knowledge or experience but he is a senior member of the ANC's Military Veterans) and head of fisheries management. Both of these posts are critical to any successful rights allocation process. Silence. 
Talking about rights allocation, the Minister barely even mentioned this most important process that is supposed to under full swing presently but actually lurches from one ad-hoc process, event and decision to another. This BLOG has repeatedly stated that the current rights allocation process is chaotic and unlawful. This would perhaps explain the Minister's refusal to say anything substantial about it. There is nothing decent to say about it especially since it is now openly opposed by academics, small-scale fishers, NGO's and industry. The only apparent praise singer for the Minister is one Timothy Jacobs of the ANC Western Cape Economic Transformation and Rural Development Sub-committee.

Further, staying with the rights allocation process, the Minister failed to even mention the budget for this process (considering that this was a budget vote and the 2013 rights allocating process would be the single most expensive line item). 

The Minister actually spent more time thanking her children and child minder than she spent addressing fisheries issues. In our view, the budget speech was exactly what we have come to expect from the fisheries department and its Minister.  Empty and pointless.

Perhaps the most useful bit of information came from Pieter van Dalen of the DA who mentioned during the debate component of the budget presentation that Minister Rob Davies has been instructed by Cabinet to intervene in the current chaos caused by Tina Joemat-Pettersson at Fisheries. Hopefully this leads to Joemat-Pettersson's removal. [She could be appointed CEO of I&J as we hear their CEO has stepped down (he was a aging white male - the worst kind there is) or she could even be appointed Editor of the Cape Times now that Sekunjalo has bought (Soon Not So) Independent Newspapers]. 

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