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E-tolls - Why do you all care?

22 April 2013, 07:26

I must admit, I am puzzled by the e-tolls scenario. Ultimately e-tolls are just another tax and a relatively small one at that. Of course many are incensed by the idea that the whole deal may be corrupt, but this is not very different to how the rest of our money is being utilised.

Please don't get me wrong - I don't support e-tolling in its current form either, but it is really just a symptom of a rotten system.

The point I want to make is : "Where are you all when it comes to paying all the other taxes ?".

Income tax, companies tax, VAT, SDL, fuel levies, tv tax, death tax etc add up to FAR more than this additional "tax" in the form of e-tolls, but nobody seems interested. Even those who don't contribute much in the way of taxes must be aware that if things worked the way they are meant to, they would see a lot more for these taxes ? Perhaps (shock! horror!) they might even get a sustainable job ?

Consider this : Over the last year the rand/dollar went from R8.00 to R9.20 despite the United States devaluing their currency by 85 BILLION dollars a month. Lets put that $85 billion into context .... The United States is printing +- R750 million a month, or 3 times more money than the ENTIRE GDP of South African over a year and yet ... the rand is still devaluing against the dollar by 15% a year ???? Imagine how fast the rand will slide when they stop printing that money (which they are suggesting might happen by the end of 2013).

Of course (our wise comrades at Cosatu will tell us) our export industry is flying at these weak rand levels ... but no.... when you look at the figures from statistics SA we are still running a trade deficit with mining GDP in real terms unchanged since 2000 !! In fact we have moved from being a net exporter to being a net importer - in other words devaluing the currency is BAD for us.

Not everyone is aware that devaluing a currency is another form of taxation (one we don't hear much about)... Devaluing currency allows government to temporarily boost exports, increase the nominal GDP and most importantly hide the fact that the economy isn't growing by paying debts with newly printed money. The consumer then has no clue why fuel (which is at the same price in dollar terms as in 2010) keeps going up.....

Our currency devaluation however is systemic more than government controlled - it points to our poor performance as a country with respect to the rest of Africa (which is getting investment instead of us), our poor direction (GDP isn't growing really, we are implementing redistribution policies instead of growth policies), and our high risks (we can name many here). Low returns with high risks just don't work if you want investment, and the jobs that come with investment. Our reserve bank is doing its best, but poor government policy is swamping it.

So in any case the net result is that everything you own is worth 15% less than it was a year ago - and I haven't even touched on the usual topics (CPI, tax bracket creep, corruption etc). Did SARS give you any money back for being 15% worse off than a year ago ? I didn't think so. What the SA government DID do though is increase their budget to a trillion rand, local municipalities increased their costs above inflation AND UPPED their valuations of most properties - all whilst providing less services to the taxpayer than ever before.

And nobody blocked up ANY highways, or expressed much unhappiness at all over any of this. Instead we are being blinded by "e-tolls".

Our taxes continue to be used to support poor decision making, socialist policy, "transformation" and our wealth is devaluing faster than we realise.

We as the South African public have to realise that we can't fight each scenario (like e-tolls) one at a time. The government simply uses the tax money we pay them to force implementation, fighting in court etc forever. And they will eventually win because government writes and rewrites the rulebook as needed until they win. They can afford to wait us out too... burn a gantry and our taxes will just go up to pay for it - probably from the textbook budget.

Basically, fighting the e-toll battle isn't big enough, and it just buys Cosatu brownie points (which in my opinion they don't really deserve). Best case outcome ? We don't pay e-tolls directly and government increases the fuel levy.... And we feel better because "justice" was done and some corrupt people won't get their cash (as far as we know).

Taxpayers need to unite in some way, focus on the things that drive the economy and find ways to alter the path we are on. Perhaps this is through political means via a united party based around reducing and eliminating wasteful use of tax resources, perhaps this is through a "Cosatu" like group that influences government, or perhaps this is through blocking up highways. Whatever it is, we had best get to doing it !

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