By: by Brett Herron, Secretary-General & Member of Parliament.
See original post here.
Already extremely hard-pressed South African consumers are bracing for another double-dose of pain, with increasing fuel and municipal electricity and water tariffs coming into effect.
A triple-dose, in fact, if you add the seasonal costs of keeping warm in the dead of winter.
The State will argue that there is little it can do to intervene.
It will point out that South Africa does not pump its own oil – or refine oil, any longer – so the base prices of petrol, diesel and paraffin are beyond our control. And it will say that the country can’t afford to forego the R1.50 general fuel levy (suspended for a few months) forever.
With respect to electricity prices, it’s common cause that we are presently held hostage by Eskom’s monopoly and gross inefficiency, and most South Africans have little option but to cough up for the insult. Water, too. It’s a basic necessity and few urban residents have alternative sources to that supplied by their municipalities.
The truth, however, is that the State does have the power to cushion citizens pain. To exercise the power, and prioritise that which should be prioritised, requires a mind-set shift in the State’s approach to the way it spends its money.
Instead of dividing the revenue according to historic formulas and spending patterns, we should be cutting the cloth to fit the suit we actually need, informed by our most pressing priorities. This approach is known as zero-based budgeting.
It’s not that the State can’t afford to forego R1.50 of the fuel levy, or that our towns and cities can’t afford not to add punitive tariffs to our electricity and water bills – or that we can’t afford a Basic Income Grant, for that matter. The reason we can’t afford these things is because we prioritise other things.
Things including exorbitant cars, security details for government big-shots, R22m flags, new carbon-spewing power stations, a host of failed land reform initiatives… it’s a long list.
South Africa’s economy, stumbling before Covid, is battling to resurrect itself. Many people are suffering. When you already can’t afford to live, how can you possibly afford more increases to the cost of living?
Fuel and electricity price hikes don’t just effect owners of private vehicles or domestic users; they have a knock-on impact on the prices of just about everything else. Right down to the price of staple foods, school stationary, and medicines.
Through actions such as temporarily reducing the fuel levy, and introducing the R350 Covid special grant, the State has clearly indicated good intentions.
Now it must take the next step: Getting struggling South Africans through the economic quicksand we’re in, and reducing the hardship and indignity of profound poverty, is the priority.
We must fund our national priorities and defund wasteful and unnecessary expenditure.