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More pressing projects to spend on than a mere beauty pageant

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By Ashraf Patel

(source: The Star – December 17, 2009 Edition 1)

It is disturbing to note that millions of rands were spent by the City of Johannesburg on the Miss World 2009 pageant this past weekend.At a time when the global financial crisis requires modesty and cost savings, the poor and vulnerable look up to the government to support local economic development initiatives and their social welfare. Yet, the City of Joburg went the extra mile to spend on such a frivolous activity.

The R90 million that the Johannesburg Tourism Company invested in the pageant will have very little demonstrable impact on the poor local communities.

As a ratepayer of the Joburg City Council, I would have spent the R90m on the following socio-economic projects:

–  Pothole repairs: repair the hundreds of potholes and replace the hundreds of manhole covers that have been stolen. This would create temporary jobs for hundreds of small construction workers and save motorists on inevitable repair bills;

–  Food gardens: support food gardens. This would go a long way in assisting marginal communities and informal settlements in their food security; –  Early Childhood Centres: upgrade early childhood educational centres and equip them with quality educational resources and materials; – Rissik Street post office: I would have revamped the historic Rissik Street post office that was recently burnt down;  –  Transport subsidy: set aside funds for unemployed youths, the elderly and disabled to access the underutilised Bus Rapid Transit;-  Health clinics: invest in the upgrading of primary health clinics and improve the pay and working conditions for junior doctors; – Community Technology Centres: support community technology centres and train unemployed youths in IT and small-business skills programmes; and- Child Welfare: I would have spent at least R1m on food parcels and gifts for our orphanages and refugee centres and brought some festive cheer to an otherwise miserable year. I would procure all the resources needed to provide all the services from local, small businesses and NGOs, thus contributing to stimulating the local economy. The City of Joburg must be allowed to play Santa Claus to its vulnerable citizens, but definitely not to the rich and famous and well-connected.