SOUTH African Airways (SAA) needs about R2bn to R3bn a year to survive, a requirement that would have to be dealt with when deciding on the future of the airline, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday in reply to questions in Parliament about the budget.

No provision was made for a further capital injection or state guarantee for SAA in the 2016-17 budget tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. The airline is already surviving on a R14.4bn guarantee and has not been able to table its 2014-15 financial year yet because of concerns about its going concern status.

Earlier this month Mr Gordhan requested a month’s extension for SAA to table its annual report.

In reply to questions posed by members of four parliamentary committees to the minister and the Treasury team on Thursday, Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile said that SAA had already used a R13.4bn guarantee and was expected to have used the remaining R1bn by the end of March. Discussions were taking place with SAA to improve its financial position.

Mr Gordhan stressed that getting SAA on sound footing would not happen overnight. The immediate priorities were to stabilise the airline by getting a new board and executive management in place and formulating a clear financial plan for it. "We want a package of solutions and not a once-off thing," he said, otherwise the problems would just recur.

Mr Gordhan indicated in his budget that he and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown were discussing the future of SAA and the possible introduction of a minority equity partner. The merger of the state’s four airlines was also under discussion. This would achieve synergies and cost savings.

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said the government had to be more creative in its approach to state-owned companies, bringing in more money and more capabilities.