The demands on government resources are such that it is impossible to provide for everything. As the renowned US intellectual Thomas Sowell once remarked, "There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs." This has an earthier corollary everyone has probably heard from their parents: "Money doesn’t grow on trees." Much can be learnt about what really matters to those in power by watching how they use money. It is revealing indeed to see the periodic requests by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for the government to help them out. Overcome a cash crunch here, sort out an irate creditor there. Or simply keep them off life support (or should that be on life support?). SAA (South African Airways) is a case in point. Its cash-flow position being "unsustainable", it asked the government for a R5bn bailout in April to tide it over. For a few months. In 2017 it received R10bn. The R5bn has apparently been granted, according to SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana. He did, however, helpfully indicate in as...

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