Tuesday, September 11, 2007

South Africa Won't Cut Social Programs for 2010 WC

South Africa has their priorities in order.

Unlike the US government that keeps cutting taxes and social institutions, their South African counterparts will not scale back social programs to fund construction of stadiums and other facilities for the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the South African World Cup organizing committee, told reporters today the government would absorb the 17.4 billion rand ($2.42 billion) needed to build and refurbish 10 stadiums as well as other World Cup costs without raiding education and health budgets or other key sectors.

"This event does not come at the expense of social programmes," Jordaan said after he and other officials provided an update on South Africa's preparations to host the first FIFA World Cup played in Africa.

"What this event has done is create jobs," he said, adding that the government expected significant economic and social gains from increased tourism and other spin-offs from the soccer championship.

The African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled since apartheid ended in 1994, is under growing pressure to improve delivery of water, electricity and other basic services to millions of poor residents, most of them black.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of townships and shantytowns to voice anger over poor service delivery and the government's failure to dramatically improve their lives as promised when it took power.

In some cases crowds have attacked and even killed local ANC officials.

The country's World Cup organizers said that the tournament would be a catalyst for economic development, helping to expand South Africa's tax base, build skills among workers and showcase its attractions to investors and tourists.

They expect 9.8 billion rand in tourist revenue and a further 7.2 billion rand in tax revenue to be generated by the event and an undetermined amount in economic benefits from improved infrastructure.

South Africa is also upgrading its poor transport system and building hotels to accommodate 450,000 overseas fans who are expected to visit for the month-long tournament, which begins on June 11, 2010.

The World Cup will improve many lives in South Africa. The organizers seem to be doing a good job of keeping expectations high, morale high and confidence on a roll.

They better deliver.

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