Walk into any major supermarket today and go to the cheese section. Notice something? That's right, the imported Danish Blue Cheese is cheaper than the South African equivalent. A Rand, two, sometimes a lot more.
Now that Danish cheese was manufactured in a country by workers who probably earn 10 times more than their South African counterparts, transported from the Danish factory to a port, loaded on a refrigerated ship and moved over weeks, halfway round the World to Cape Town, placed on a refrigerated lorry and driven 1600 miles to Johannesburg to a warehouse, off-loaded, and reloaded on another lorry and distributed to a local supermarket where it is marked up and sold at a price considerably less than that for which locally produced cheese is sold. Same goes for Danish butter.
Polish jam travels even further and is sold for half the price of local jam and likewise for tins of Italian tomatoes and bottles of French and Italian wine. Despite the huge transport costs for European agricultural produce, the reason why our agricultural products are undercut is because the European Economic Community subsides their farmers to such an extent that they can profitably dump surpluses on our market. And retailers like Pick n Pay don't give a damn as they make huge profits in the process.
And our government does not give a damn either. Not only don't they give a damn if our farmers are put out of business, they are, in the main, openly hostile to a farming community which operates under the most dangerous conditions and are plagued by violent, politically motivated strikes and threats from militant trade unions.
It is no wonder then that our agricultural sector and agricultural exports are shrinking. In 1980 there were around 128 000 commercial farmers, which had dropped to 58 000 in 1997 and to just under 40 000 today. Predictions are that this will drop to 15 000 in the next 15 years. But farming remains vitally important to the economy with 638 000 people formally employed and an estimated 8,5 million people directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their income.
South African farmers are operating on very slender margins and have to compete on an uneven playing field due to subsidies paid to farmers in the United States and several European Union countries. Our farmers are not subsidised a single cent.
On the other hand the god industry in South Africa probably employs fewer than 5% of those in agriculture and has no potential for employment growth, is vastly more profitable than agriculture, makes no contribution to the economy, drains our foreign reserves and is subsidised by South African taxpayers to the tune of billions and billions of Rands every year.
Our government subsidises gods but not farmers and has more respect for gods than farmers.
The religious industry pays no income taxes or property taxes on their extensive holdings and operates without proper financial controls, so is able to pocket tens of millions in cash without being held accountable. A considerable proportion of this simply disappears into the pockets of the preachermen and much must surreptitiously filter overseas.
One can be sure that the Catholic Church, for instance, moves profits from its South African operations back to the Vatican. And so do the Scientologists, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Brazilian evangelists, et al.
So I recommend that we should stop subsidising the gods and redeploy the money to building up and making out agricultural sector more internationally competitive. Paying farm workers R150 per day pales into insignificance against the profits of religion.
I can already hear the squeal of outrage from the religious industry. The irony is that if they object to such a proposal then it will be a clear admission by them and their gods cannot exist without taxpayer subsidies. They will point to their “charitable” works but fail to mention that all religious charity comes with strings attached and the obvious agenda to proselytise for a god and to grow the religious business.
Anyway, money can be effectively collected for charity without any self-appointed representative of a god taking a cut of the proceeds. Such money would be more effectively used by secular charities such as the International Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.
And if the religions and the gods are placed in danger of extinction without subsidies and tighter financial controls then I have a simple response, “the gods will provide”. All the religious need to do is to get down on their knees, close their eyes and in abject submission beg their gods to create their own damn money in future.
The article written by a non-farmer and reluctant shareholder in Gods.Inc, who is very unimpressed with the gods' performances to date and still wonders when any of them is actually going to verifiably do something to justify the billions expended on them every year.
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