21 February 2007South Africa is to increase its public spending on a variety of social programmes including teachers’ salaries, health, welfare and housing, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said in his 2007/08 Budget speech in Cape Town on Wednesday.South Africa will be spend an extra R8.1-billion on improved teacher salaries, teacher assistants and school support staff over the next three years, Manuel told Parliament.Health also gets a major boost this year, with an extra R1-billion for the state’s hospital revitalisation programme, and an extra R5.3-billion for better pay for health workers and for recruiting more staff. “Government is budgeting to increase the number of health workers by about 30 000 over the next five years,” Manuel said.In addition, the government has set aside a further R1.7-billion for its HIV/Aids programme, with treatment for about 250 000 HIV-positive patients being rolled out at 272 sites countrywide.For public transport, water and other municipal infrastructure, there is an additional R7.8-billion.For housing, an additional R2.7-billion brings the total allocation for the next three years to R32-billion. The housing budget will have risen from R4.6-billion in 2003/04 to R12.5-billion by 2009/10.A further R2.4-billion goes to spending on additional police officers and on new technology and forensic equipment to assist the police. From now on, Manuel said, “electronic fingerprints and dockets will become the norm.”At the same time, an additional R1.5-billion goes to the Department of Justice to improve the work of the country’s courts and reduce case backlogs.Over the medium term, the Budget allocation for the police will rise by 34%, from R33-billion in 2006/07 to R44-billion in 2009/10, while the Department of Justice will see a 52% rise in its budget over the next three years.Government spending on the 2010 Fifa World Cup goes up to R17.4-billion. While the cost of building the stadiums has been contained within the R8.4-billion originally budgeted, a further R2.3-billion will be spent on related transport infrastructure and upgrades to areas around the stadiums.This brings the total to be spent on transport infrastructure ahead of 2010 to R9-billion, and the total of direct national government expenditure on 2010 to R17.4-billion.Social grantsManuel’s 2007 Budget includes increases in social grants, thanks to successes over the past previous years in curbing corruption in the country’s social grants system.The old age pension, the disability grant and the care dependency grant will all be increased by R50, from R820 a month to R870 a month, from 1 April.This increase, Manuel said, sends “a strong signal that money released from the reduction of corruption will be given back to those who deserve it”.The child support grant is also being increased, from R190 to R200 a month, as is the foster care grant, from R590 to R620 a month.The Budget also makes R10-billion available over the next three years to improve the services provided by social welfare organisations in communities.Sin taxesIn terms of so-called “sin taxes” on consumables, a can of beer will cost 5 cents more, while a packet of cigarettes will cost 60 cents more. A 750ml bottle of spirits, such as whiskey or brandy, will cost R1.88 more, a 750ml bottle of wine will cost 10 cents more.The tax on a litre of petrol or diesel will rise by 10 cents from 4 April. These increases, Manuel said, would bring an extra R1.5-billion into the national coffers.Source: BuaNews
Working up to the off-grid life in stagesFujii has taken her conversion one step at a time. Before the earthquake, no doubt like many others, Fujii took electricity for granted. She paid about 4,000 yen ($36) a month for electricity and thought nothing of leaving the television on just so she could check the time when she wanted.But she began dialing back by turning off her home appliances one by one, reducing her bill to about 2,000 yen a month and finally, after unplugging the refrigerator, to about 800 yen a month — the equivalent of about $7.Even that wasn’t enough. “I thought I might be able to live without relying on the power company,” she said, “and decided to start an off-grid life for the fun of it.”She’s had to be inventive, not only in how she uses the meager amount of electricity she consumes but how to find substitutes for the appliances she once plugged in. For example, she made a heater from an old oil lamp and a flower pot. With the pot turned upside down over the oil lamps, just 20 milliliters of oil (about six tenths of an ounce) keeps the pot warm for up to four hours.To take the place of an electric tea kettle, Fujii made her own solar water heater by painting glass tubes black and filling them with water.A business partner’s request to send a document by email on short notice sent Fukii to her exercise bike dynamo to crank out enough electricity to power her computer.These and other measures have reduced her consumption of electricity to between 500 and 800 watt-hours per day, what the newspaper said it about 92% less than the average household there.“I always live while being conscious of the weather,” Fujii told the newspaper. “For example, when I wake up to find it is sunny, I think I should use the washer today. Thinking this way is fun for me.” The crippling earthquake and tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Japan in March 2011 was still causing problems for customers of the Tokyo Electric Power Company more than a year later, and the rolling blackouts were enough to convince a textile artist named Chikako Fujii that her life would be better off without a connection to the grid.So Fujii terminated her contract for electricity, bought a solar panel or two, and began learning how to live with a lot less power than she’d gotten used to.As detailed in an article published in The Asahi Shimbun, Fujii uses less than a kilowatt-hour of electricity per day. Power comes from a few photovoltaic (PV) modules on the veranda of her western Tokyo home. The total rated capacity of the PV modules is only 260 watts; on a sunny day, the PV system produces about 1 kWh of electricity.That’s just enough to run a washing machine, used to dye fabric, for three hours. When cloudy weather drains the system’s battery, Fujii can hop on a a repurposed exercise bike connected to a dynamo and pedal for a while to replenish it. She uses a foot-powered sewing machine and an iron powered by charcoal rather than electricity.She’s given up entirely on having a refrigerator, a television, and an air conditioner.“I enjoy working out how to lead a life without using electricity,” she told the newspaper.