Last Updated: 2012-07-03
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PRETORIA, July 3 (NNN-SANEWS) -- The government is doing all it can to ensure sustainable debt levels while also delivering services to the people, says South Africa's Finance Minister. Pravin Gordhan.

"When the (international financial) crisis hit in 2008-2009, we had a fiscal surplus which enabled us to absorb the shock from the recession. Our debt still remains fairly modest by international standards," he said here Monday.

"We are doing everything possible as government to ensure that we maintain the sustainability of our debt picture on the one hand, and deliver effectively to South Africans that which we are required to deliver."

Speaking at the launch of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) 2012 tax season, he added that fiscal strength played an important part in sustaining government itself and the economy.

Noting that in the recession, South Africa lost 60 billion (about 7.36 billion USD) in revenue, which had not been recovered, he added: "We have managed to have a low debt load even by international standards. Where gross debt might reach, about 42 per cent over the next three years, we are still better off than most countries in the world as far as our debt load is concerned."

The government would continue maintaining the same level of spending as before the recession, he said. "We will sustain the same level of spending as we had prior to the recession. While we have made downward adjustments in our spending patterns, we'll still sustain real growth in spending."

About five million South Africans are expected to complete their tax returns in the current tax season. Those who do not adhere to filing their returns will incur penalties.

"All taxpayers are given adequate time to fill out their returns. Those with outstanding returns are informed of this and if they ignore the encouragement from SARS to submit outstanding returns, then there are legal processes followed," said Gordhan.

"Once they are completed, the taxpayer will be levied with a penalty and there are provisions for the appointment of an agent. The issue is submitting the return, it isn't the penalty," added the Minister. -- NNN-SANEWS