Should we feign surprise at Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba using taxpayer money for the latest, no-strings-attached R2.3bn bail-out to South African Airways (SAA)?
After countless supposed turnaround strategies and billions wasted, it should be quite clear that support for the "national carrier" has everything to do with a dogmatic pursuit of a failed ideological way of thinking and nothing at all to do with economics.
What should surprise many is how much the ANC mimics failed National Party policies in the pursuit of "nationalist" goals at the expense of the poor.
Over more than a decade SAA has cost taxpayers an estimated R30bn — money that could have been used to build housing for the indigent, improve SA’s dismal education outcomes or fund basic services for the poor. This mindless commitment to the "national" carrier has crowded out at least nine private airlines, which, through competition, would have brought costs down and improved services. Even though the Competition Commission has repeatedly found SAA guilty of cheating, it too, in a sad, twisted way, has forced taxpayers to foot the bill.
The problem with all state-owned enterprises, whether controlled by the old National Party or the ANC, is that they lack any economic incentive to be profitable. No private sector operation could ever survive losses such as SAA’s over such a sustained period. The precious few private airlines that remain in the "market" are expected to continue to operate in an environment that is neither fair nor appropriate.
How about some real radical economic transformation? How about getting the government out of the airlines business? How about the government no longer so freely using taxpayer money to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor?
How about letting private airlines compete for our business, just as private companies do in other economic sectors?
How about the ANC finally abandoning failed apartheid-era policies?
Jasson Urbach Via e-mail
This article was first published in Business Day on 5 July 2017