LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Tax increase to fund Covid-19 vaccine an offence to South Africans

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A medical worker inoculates a recipient with a COVID-19 vaccine at a community healthcare center in Tianjin, China on January 5, 2021.
A medical worker inoculates a recipient with a COVID-19 vaccine at a community healthcare center in Tianjin, China on January 5, 2021.
Li Ran/Xinhua via Getty

Omphile Sekgarametso questions why taxpayers might have to foot the bill for the Covid-19 vaccine when funding for Covid-19 already exists.

A recent report from the National Treasury, suggesting a tax hike as one of the possible mechanisms to fund the Covid-19 vaccine, is a gross offence to many South Africans.

What happened to the R500 billion stimulus package that was supposedly meant for Covid-19 relief programmes? The donations of the Solidarity Fund, what happened to those? Couldn't the government deduct a mere R20 billion from it to finance the Covid-19 vaccination programme?

South African citizens should not be made to pay for the government's carelessness in handling public funds. If the government is able to consistently bail out corruption-stricken state-owned enterprises, how is it unable to fund the Covid-19 vaccination campaign without making us pay.

Taxpayers should not be punished for the State's failure.

Access to healthcare is our basic, constitutional human right. Let the government provide for it without squeezing more out of South Africans. South Africans are already paying a lot in taxes. With a wage freeze, petrol increase and food price hikes, how can South Africans be expected to pay more in taxes?

Possible effects of tax hike on our weak economy

A tax hike in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession is absolutely not a good idea. Its effects will not be pleasant and may lead to more economic ills.

A tax hike will take more money away from consumers and reduce their disposable income, leading to lower consumer spending trends. Lower consumer spending, will lead to a decrease in business revenue, which would mean less investment and employment.

READ | Wage freeze, tax hikes or borrowing: How will Treasury make sure there is money for vaccines

High taxes prevent economic growth. In fact, tax cuts are recommended during periods of economic turmoil to encourage spending and growth. A tax hike to fund the Covid-19 vaccination programme will be a pain to people and businesses.

There's a lot that our government leaders can learn from leaders like Ronald Reagan, who said: "Governments don't reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people; governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth."

The real problem in our country

It is worth nothing that the problem in our country is not that people are not paying enough taxes, the problem lies with the government's misuse of taxpayers' money on ministerial VIP protection,  for example. In 2020, it was reported that R8.4 million had been spent on accommodating Deputy President David Mabuza's bodyguards for just six months. This is unacceptable.  

Let the government consider other mechanisms to fund the vaccination campaign without inflicting pain on us.

For quite a long time, the government has been bailing out the likes of SAA. Now it's time that they bail us out of this pandemic - instead of us bailing them out.

It's high time that the South African government stops being a problem to us. Rather, it should be a solution to many of our problems. The government should focus on reprioritising the government and defunding some programmes which are less important.

- Omphile Sekgarametso, Mafikeng, North West. 

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