The year of big things will come to a gloomy end

2010-02-27 00:00

WOZA 2010. The year of big things is finally here. We have all been waiting for it with bated breath. Yes, 2010 represents the Fifa Soccer World Cup, the biggest sporting spectacle in the world and South Africa will benefit in more ways than one from hosting it. The sad news is that this may be the only piece of good news to come out of 2010. I am not a doomsayer, but it does look like it will be all doom and gloom for the person on the street.

When Eskom took to the people as part of a public participation process ahead of the electricity tariff hikes, it was hardly a walk in the park as they came across much-anticipated resistance. Businesses and members of various communities were scathing and made their feelings, or rather ill-feelings, known as they rejected the 135% tariff increase over three years. This was an understandable reaction.

Perhaps we need to take a few steps back. It is now well known that in 1997 Eskom executives went to the then minister of Minerals and Energy Affairs, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and then president Thabo Mbeki, to seek a substantial tariff increase. This was denied as it was seen as not urgent. Time has passed and because there is no legal recourse to ensure that politicians account for their failure to fulfil their duties, this is water under the bridge, although the consequences of their actions, or lack thereof, will be felt by consumers for years to come.

Fast forward to today. Electricity consumers are now going to bankroll the power utility by at least 25%. I say by at least 25% because municipalities are still going to incorporate their 10 or so percentage points, which will leave the consumer with a total increase of up to 40%, if not more. We should know exactly how much by the end of May at the latest, as this will make it one month before the increases are implemented, as is required by law.

How much of the public’s input was considered by the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) is anyone’s guess but those who will be hardest hit will be those who live below the breadline and small- and medium-sized enterprises as they are still trying to crack it in the business world. This is against the backdrop of a global economic recession. Big businesses will be affected but it will be their bottom line that will be affected and not their survival.

There is then the ever-spiralling petrol price which will crack through the R10 mark at about halfway through the year. This will adversely affect food prices, transportation, clothing and so on. It boggles the mind that the United States took over Iraq and its oil reserves yet the petrol price continues to increase. As comedian Chris Rock put it: “If I invade KFC, wings will be free at my house.”

The Soccer World Cup promises to be the spectacle that it has always been but the rest of the year will not be as rosy as it has been made out to be.

It looks like, contrary to having light at the end of the tunnel, there will be light in the tunnel but the end of the tunnel is dark and gloomy.

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