savings budget money finance coins

Image: Pixabay/Olichel

‘SA losing R10 billion a day during lockdown’ – Free Market Foundation

The liberal think-tank believe that the lockdown measures will only lead to a worsened death rate at the hands of poverty and hunger.

savings budget money finance coins

Image: Pixabay/Olichel

South Africa is losing R10 billion with each passing day of the extended nationwide lockdown, according to the Free Market Foundation (FMF). 

The organisation – a liberal think-tank founded in 1975 with a view to promote the values of  an open society and economic liberalism – has revealed that its research indicates that the loss of about R350 billion over the five weeks in lockdown, will result in the death of millions of South Africans due to poverty. 

‘Poverty is a killer’

FMF CEO Leon Louw said in a statement that the decision to extend the current lockdown could result in far worse ramifications than those threatened by the global pandemic itself. 

“The government’s decision to extend the lockdown might cause more premature deaths than far-less-extreme measures, or even lifting existing measures completely,” he said in a statement.

“The economic and human rights impact is more extreme than all but a few realise. Poverty is a killer. The health and wealth loss is likely to exceed real or imagined lockdown benefits.”

He said that although near totalitarian measures have been implemented, there is still a deep lack of knowledge accompanying the outcomes such measures may achieve, essentially accusing the government of naively walking into a terrible alternative. 

“All experts agree that there is great uncertainty about the lockdown’s benefits.

“Experts admit to knowing almost nothing with certainty about the health implications of totalitarian lockdown, such as whether it will merely ‘flatten the curve’. That is, have roughly the same number of infections spread over a longer period, or whether it will save a few thousand lives.

“Against that uncertainty, we know with absolute certainty the extent to which freedom has been obliterated temporarily, and will probably be compromised permanently. And we know with certainty that it is an is economic scorched-earth policy.

Money could promote social welfare 

Louw said that with the financial losses being incurred, South Africa by now could have been spending that money on social welfare programmes. 

“That is enough for 3.5 million RDP houses; enough to house all homeless people and people crammed into overcrowded shanties. 

“It is enough to feed 30 million undernourished people daily or build 20 hospitals every day. It could fund universal healthcare, modernise and upgrade all clinics, and fund thousands more doctors, nurses, teachers or police,” he said.

‘Suspend lockdown immediately’  

The foundation criticised the distinction of essential goods, saying that there was a lack of consistency in the sale of goods between the country’s various retailers. 

“What may not be sold is irrational and arbitrary. How the law is interpreted varies widely,” said Louw.  

“For instance, one store I visited would not sell a toilet bowl plunger; another did. One would not sell tools; another did. A store manager could not tell me whether chewing gum or chewing tobacco is food.”

He pointed to the controversial prohibition of alcohol and tobacco as one of the major failings of the lockdown measures, saying that the decision would inevitably lead to a cascading avalanche of crime. 

“The bizarre prohibition of tobacco and alcohol is reprehensible. In addition to violating human rights, normal people are incentivised to resort to crime: Trading in black markets, looting and burglary. Increased depression and stress, in addition to being locked down, is increasing domestic violence.

Retaining perspective

“One of the hardest things to do during a fear-inducing pandemic, is retain perspective,” Louw said, adding that the lockdown should be lifted with immediate effect in order for people to get back to work and protect the economy. 

“What the government should do urgently is lift the lockdown, promote healthy behaviour, promote prosperity by implementing long overdue pro-market structural reforms, and to get those people lucky enough to have a job, back to work. 

“Employers could be induced to promote safe working conditions (as mandated by labour law), and police and soldiers could be explaining and encouraging safe behaviour.”