The waves societies choose to ignore at their own peril: face masks are the new ‘Heil Hitler!’

Johannes Wessels
@johannesEOSA1

In the last months of the Year of Covid-19, the world experienced a massive resurgent wave. It wasn’t a wave of deaths by coronavirus, but a lockdown tsunami engulfing individual and civil liberties. The excess deaths caused by governments’ decisions to relegate non-Covid health issues to the realm of non-essential treatments, also become more and more visible for those who have eyes to see and those who have ears to hear…

Another heaving wave – poverty due to the swelling unemployment and enterprise demise that the lockdown measures and the autocratic disruption of economic life brought about – also gained momentum. The impact thereof is certain to dwarf that of the virus itself.

If the worldwide death toll of 1.359 million attributed to Covid-19 is divided by the daily average global death toll of 158 085 (for 2019) and one fills the annual calendar according to deaths by cause, the feared pandemic with its vicious waves is closer to a ripple than a tsunami. EOSA developed a Cause of Death Calendar that shows:

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Ramaphosa’s bold plan (2): weak on detail, strong on flights of fancy

Johannes Wessels
@johannesEOSA1

Two recent key government speeches gave rise to two important questions:

  • Is the inability of the government to effectively implement its policies & plans (?) worse than its inability to table concrete action plans, underpinned by clear strategies, designs, milestones, budgets and target dates?
  • Why can even Thabo Mbeki see the president is naked whilst organised big business still praises the beauty of his imaginary clothes?

The president’s tabling of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) was lame and lacked detail, whilst the Minister of Finance’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) left one with a feeling there is not much grasp within the collective government on how to prevent SA from slipping rapidly, if not tumbling, down the slope.

Instead of rekindling confidence and inspiration, vague and mixed messages fuelled doubt and a disbelief that the government can prevent SA from boarding the proverbial bus to Argentina (debt default). I put the following three arguments to illustrate this assessment:

  • Will the government stand solidly behind Mboweni’s strategy of freezing public sector wages for three years when they cannot deal with the much easier route to stop financing the effectively bankrupt SAA? Recall also how Pravin Gordhan in 2018 (knowing well that Eskom was not only overstaffed, but the personnel besides overpaid) overruled the Eskom Board and management when they had decided on a zero salary increase as part of addressing the Eskom viability issue.
  • Can one rely (trust would be too much to ask) on the government’s undertaking to reign in public expenditure? This, when they had failed multiple times to table a comprehensive plan on how to deal with Eskom’s debt and the growing debt burdens of other State-owned Enterprises (SOEs).
  • How is the “growth through infrastructure roll-out” approach different from numerous previous attempts – since the days of Thabo Mbeki – to strengthen the country’s economic fibre by infrastructure investments announcements, with the emphasis on announcements?

Flipchart notes or a detailed plan?

The Enterprise Observatory of SA reckons four fundamental problems underpin the ERRP and the MTBPS:

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Ramaphosa’s bold plan (1): Is ‘buying local’ BEE disguised by a face mask?

Johannes Wessels
@johannesEOSA1

If Ramaphosa’s bold plan to restart the economy was a film, the premiere already proved it’s not an ‘out-of-the-box’ blockbuster that will rake in Oscars for economic growth and sustainable job creation. Growth through state-led infrastructure development XXI is a lame sequel fit for an infamous Razzie award.

Like its predecessor – the lengthy National Development Plan – the Economic Reconstruction & Recovery Plan (ERRP) is a sure box office flop.

The ERRP announced by the president after lengthy consultation processes with big business and big labour states “Non-implementation of the ERRP could lead to loss of economic capacity, including collapse of the supply capacity, consumer and business confidence, the labour market and increased vulnerability of the poor. The overall plan aims to mitigate these risks”.

This script suggests its authors live in a make-believe reality: South Africans, whether tax payers or the growing number of unemployed, know consumer and business confidence and employment are not waiting for collapse through the non-implementation of a plan. It has collapsed already and was meticulously crafted by the very same government now purporting to be capable of getting the economy firing on all cylinders again.

There is a hidden sub-text as well: Covid 19 was the excuse to gain more arbitrary power and programs to recover from the lockdown devastation are aimed at cementing these arbitrary powers.

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Is it right to pay tax when clean and safe hands are missing at the till?

Johannes Wessels (@johannesEOSA1)

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter’s biggest headache is not the gaping R300 billion crater in tax income this financial year or the growing Everest of assessed losses for companies that will impact negatively on CIT for years to come. His biggest problem is how to convince taxpayers to sustain a government that under the pretext of “a better life for all” has served up a toxic mix of corruption, wastage, mismanagement and anti-growth policies.

In addition, the very same government has doggedly pursued a lockdown strategy not underpinned by much logic that could yield any outcome other than a severe economic disaster with long term humanitarian effects. These effects include shortened lifespans, poverty related deaths, and deaths from medical conditions the government deemed non-essential. The toll of this inept strategy will in all likelihood dwarf the real Covid 19 death toll.

Lockdown has mowed down millions of jobs and several hundred thousand businesses. Those that survived have been severely crippled: they have a radically reduced income, have run up losses or have achieved less than half their previous taxable income.

One recalls the words of Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa, whose theology and philosophy influenced ancient as well as modern thought: “Without justice, what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers?

Tax compliance in a lockdown context

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Thanks to the lockdown you are much poorer and deeper in debt (also the wasteful debts government incurred)

Johannes Wessels (@johannesEOSA1)

South Africa’s economic growth rate has dropped through the floor: the lockdown economy has shrunk in 2020 Q2 by 51% (Q-on-Q annualised). Whilst the third quarter ending 30 September will register substantial growth, it will not bring the country back to where it was prior to lockdown. As cause (lockdown) and consequence (massive unemployment, poverty and the destruction of existing wealth and the means to generate wealth, i.e. businesses) of this economic meltdown mature, the future bill for yesterday’s stupidity will grow exponentially.

And those that will have to foot the bill will be much poorer with SA fast approaching the door to leave the club of upper middle-income countries to join the ranks of the lower middle-income countries.

The government has been blaming Covid 19 (this time apartheid and colonialism cannot carry the can), talking about “unprecedented economic consequences of the pandemic”. Pres. Ramaphosa refers to the economic effects of the global coronavirus pandemic”.  

And Dlamini-Zuma remains on record (National Council of Provinces, 23 June) that the government was “absolutely convinced the Covid pandemic – and not the lock-down measures was causing the economic damage.

That is a lie and StatsSA is correct with their description attributing the decline to “the impact of the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions”.

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Business for Ending Lockdown (B4EL) rejects continued state of disaster

Business for Ending Lockdown (B4EL) notes President Ramaphosa’s announcement of a move to lockdown level 2 commencing 17 August. While the further relaxing of restrictions is an improvement compared to remaining at level 3, B4EL will not thank the government for giving back to the people of South Africa that which belongs to them.

B4EL is a campaign to completely end lockdown. The campaign was founded this week (The Enterprise Observatory of SA is one of the founding members). It is supported by several of the most well-known and largest business organisations, already counting almost 60 000 businesses. For more information, see www.endlockdown.co.za.

The president’s announcement only underscores the fact that the lockdown remains unnecessary, arbitrary, and, by the president’s own admission, fraught with corruption.

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