Mr Xolani Mazomba won first prize in the 2016/2017 Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition in the postgraduate student category on Thursday 23 February. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) students is studying for a MCom qualification (Financial Economics) within the Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences (FEFS).
Mr Mazomba and two other UJ students, Mr Nkululeko Tshabalala and Ms Varsha Algu were among the finalists selected from thousands of Economics students across South Africa to participate in the annual Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition.
The UJ finalists were Mr Nkululeko Tshabalala, currently a MCom (Development Economics) student in the postgraduate category; and Ms Varsha Algu, currently a third year BCom (Marketing Management) student in the undergraduate category.
The winners and finalists of the competition were celebrated at a dinner in Cape Town with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as guest of honour. Their prizes have to be used for academic purposes.
Mazomba’s winning essay was titled ‘How ready is South Africa really for a National Health Insurance?’
“I support the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy because it is progressive. However, implementation should be delayed because the South African personal income tax base is too narrow; because SA’s current economic growth rate is too low; and because of a lack of human resources in the country’s public sector health institutions,” said Mr Mazomba.
“The government should look into bridging the human resources gap between the private and the public sector to mitigate any disparities in the quality of services provided between the two camps. Also, trimming down current unemployment is critical to ensure a sustainable funding pipeline for the NHI through increased tax rates in the future. Otherwise, the poor will continue bearing even greater costs”, concluded Mr Mazomba.
Nedbank Chief Executive Mr Mike Brown and Old Mutual Emerging Markets Interim CEO Mr Iain Williamson hosted the event, which was designed to encourage young South African students to apply their minds to the economic debates shaping the country.
In his keynote speech, Mr Brown encouraged the students to think of themselves as the hope of the people of South Africa for a better, more prosperous and sustainable future.
“I urge you to keep this in mind as you continue your studies. Do not think of what you are doing now as getting a qualification for a job – rather think of it as preparation for future greatness. South Africa needs leaders who are passionate and astute. We need thinkers, visionaries, and brave men and women who are not afraid to take action for the good of their country and its people,” said Mr Brown.
Mr Williamson thanked the National Treasury for their ongoing support of the competition, now in its 45th year. “We value working together with government to tackle the key economic challenges facing the country, and believe that investing in education is a critical step towards building a strong inclusive economy. We are proud that through this competition we are able to nurture and inspire young students, who are the leaders of tomorrow and whose fresh ideas will contribute positively to transforming our nation.”
Postgraduate entrants were asked to unpack the viability of the proposed NHI programme given SA’s current fiscal constraints, and suggest an appropriate funding model for the NHI.
Undergraduates had to speculate on possible reasons for the lingering gap between high national education investment and still low national education standards, and propose ways in which the nation’s education challenges could be addressed.
Says Ms Marinda Pretorius, a lecturer in FEFS, UJ: “Students enter the competition by writing an essay on a specified topic for that year related to the national budget or public finance. Most universities in SA participate in the competition. Entries have to be in by May of the previous year. The top 20 undergraduate students and top 20 postgraduate students are then selected. The top 10 of each group was identified and attended the National Budget Speech, where they went through panel interviews. From there the top three in the postgraduate and undergraduate categories were announced.”
Ms Naiefa Rashied, another lecturer at UJ’s FEFS, assisted the students with their preparation for the competition.