It's Another ANC Spending Extravaganza - and the Poor Will Be Hardest Hit

Cape Times (South Africa), June 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

It's Another ANC Spending Extravaganza - and the Poor Will Be Hardest Hit


BYLINE: MIKE WATERS

If the proposals in the leaked ANC Task Team Report on National Health Insurance (NHI) are implemented, the quality of health care and the economy will both suffer. As always, the poor will be hardest hit, because the NHI does nothing to address the crisis in our hospitals. The NHI is anti-poor, and a sure-fire recipe for the destruction of health care in South Africa.

Public hospitals are affordable but of dismal quality. They leave patients queuing for hours for rushed and inadequate care, or no care at all. Good health care in the private sector is available, but at a high cost that only a small number of South Africans can afford. The potential exists to bring these two sectors together to build a system that suits everyone's needs, and give a high-quality service to everyone.

However, the NHI plan that the ANC is attempting to push through will not do this. The ANC is attempting to force through a plan that makes no attempt to address the real problems of health care and has not - even though it is at an advanced stage of planning and has major implications for every South African - been properly costed.

The DA believes that we must fix the problems of the health system on the ground, and that we can do this easily and without massive expenditure on the cumbersome bureaucratic structure proposed by the ANC to determine our health needs. We already have a system that can work, provided that some basic principles of good management are followed. We will fight in every way we can to ensure that ordinary South Africans do not bear the brunt of another ANC spending extravaganza which makes big promises and delivers more inefficient and ineffective services.

The NHI will come at an enormous cost to South Africans; estimates put the cost at an extra R100 billion a year, amounting to a 40 percent increase in the health budget. This will come from additional taxes which will drain away a large part of the income of every family in this country where there is a member earning a salary.

However, the question of the consequences of the enormous additional burden on the tax base does not appear to be of great concern to the ANC. According to new Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, speaking to the SABC recently, it is simply a case of "those who earn more will pay more". The implication of this is that the ANC understands there to be a limitless source of income from the already overburdened taxpayers.

Particularly in the current economic crisis, this assumption is dangerous and potentially catastrophic. It may well spiral South Africa's already precarious economy into free fall, as higher tax burdens cut jobs, reduce expenditure on South African products, and increase emigration as skilled workers flee the likelihood of being forced into a low- quality public health sector and denied the services they now have.

Finding more funds for health care would be justifiable if this expenditure made health care work better. But little attention has been placed on the current problems facing the health system. …

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