Georgina Guedes

State resources are my resources

2013-03-07 13:30

Georgina Guedes

The government can have my tax money, but I want a say in how they spend it, says Georgina Guedes.

The end of February is always a sad time for freelancers. There’s been no work in December, precious little in January, and then you have to hand over your provisional tax payment to Sars just as things start to come right at the end of February.

This year, my tax payment was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. I don't mind handing over my tax if I know it's going to good places. What’s distressing about the (increasing) tax burden in South Africa is that I have very little faith that a good portion of my money is going into causes that I believe in.

Let me say here that the causes I support are not strange - I'm talking education and healthcare, not funding the first South African space station. Or, and this is the point I guess I'm trying to make, unnecessary expenditure on the president’s house, or the Free State provincial government's Wordpress website.

A transparent system

I was chatting on Twitter with other freelancers about the resentment we all feel, and I came up with the idea that taxpayers should be allowed to allocate their taxes where they see fit. Each minister would have to campaign for funds, and government should have to create a website with thermometers showing how much each area of responsibility had garnered from the annual tax pool.

The cost of the website
needn't take up too much of our money. I know some guys who built a working replica of the Free State's website for R360.

The relevant government departments would then have to carry out transparent accounting, and they would have to allocate the money where they had promised.

Where should the money go?

As I've already mentioned, I think that education and healthcare should be way up there. But I'd like to see specific plans for making things happen. There’s too much rhetoric and not nearly enough action in the current regime. Reassurances are given, but for a second year running textbooks were not delivered in Limpopo. We need to be able to follow the paper trail to work out who is accountable for these horrific oversights.

Specific attention also needs to be paid to violent crimes against women – educating police and healthcare workers, and creating programmes that work to address the root causes of rape and violence, rather than resorting to collective hand-wringing, victim-blaming and more rhetoric after each brutal assault.

The budget areas that would inevitably be slashed by most taxpayers is the party throwing and home renovations that have become the trademark of our current government. We refer to this as the rape of state resources – but this actually distances us from where those resources came from.
Every night that we’ve lain awake, thinking of ways to earn more and spend less, every job that we’ve thrown ourselves into wholeheartedly, every boring bit of slog that’s required to get the work completed, every late night that we’ve spent away from our families finishing a project, every little extra job we’ve taken on even though we don’t really have the capacity – those are what make up the state resources.

Since I’m working so hard for my government, I want a say in how they spend my money. And I want them to stop spending my money on building their own private cities. They aren’t state resources, they’re my resources.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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