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Chicken will eventually be exempted from value added tax (VAT). When this happens, millions of poor South Africans will have some relief from rising food prices, and millions of undernourished children will enjoy protein-rich meals. It will not happen this year, because finance minister Tito Mboweni has decided that the government cannot afford the loss in tax income involved. It may not happen next year, because government finances will remain parlous. The change will come about when government realises it is looking at the issue from the wrong angle, that it has got its sums wrong and that for too long it has denied poor people the benefits of cheaper protein that can change their lives. Perhaps next year’s election campaign will bring the government to the realisation that it has made a mistake. President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ministers will have to account to the public for their inaction. The arguments in favour of VAT-free chicken are numerous and persuasive, and were suppor...

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