It’s understood that the Treasury of South Africa is seriously considering a tax increase, in order to cover the billion-rand cost of rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine for all. The proposal has become public knowledge, just days after Cyril Ramaphosa assured the nation that there was ‘money in the pot’ for the lifesaving jabs.
The government has been savaged for its allegedly delayed response in securing a vaccine. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has defended the Health Department, claiming they’ve done everything within their power. However, several payment deadlines for the COVAX initiative have been missed – and complaints about ‘mixed messages’ have also surfaced.
As BusinessLive has reported, the Treasury is now contemplating making a rather unpopular decision to prop up the nation’s immunisation strategy. A mass tax increase – and one of the most significant in recent history – is now on the cards.
Of course, the proposals haven’t gone past the ‘discussion’ stage yet. But this is no flash in the pan, and serious thought is being given to a potential hike. This has, somewhat predictably, enraged some of the most prominent political figures in South Africa. John Steenhuisen, the leader of the DA, responded in typically blunt fashion: “The madness continues, a tax hike in the middle of an economic depression? Is there anybody in government in touch with economic reality?” John Steenhuisen said.
Meanwhile, shadow minister for Public Works, Leon Schreiber, has been stinging in his assessment of Treasury’s proposals. He believes that the state is trying to ‘punish law-abiding tax payers’ for its own failures. “Instead of changing corrupt priorities by defunding SAA, VIP protection, and millionaire cadres to fund vaccines, the kleptocrats are – once again – punishing law-abiding taxpayers for their failures. The failing state is at war with the people,” Schreiber stated.
Tax Justice SA also continues this theme of apoplexy. Speaking on Twitter this morning, the lobby group feared that misery ‘would be inflicted upon the public’ should a tax increase come into play. They also bemoaned the government’s inaction on busting illegal trade markets, suggesting they could find the billions required by ‘cracking down on criminality’:
“So, the Treasury is thinking of hiking taxes to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine? This is just inflicting more misery on hard-up citizens. If the government stopped criminals looting billions via illicit trade, we’d have plenty of money for vaccines.”