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The government faces two urgent spending decisions this month. We’ve heard a lot about one — the cabinet’s reported agreement to provide R10bn from the national budget to rescue SAA. In addition, the Covid-19 special grant is scheduled to end in mid-October, and renewing it will cost R11bn — almost the same as rescuing SAA. The grant provides R350 a month to 4.4-million people who have no other means of support.

Before the Covid depression it would have been easy to find funds for both projects. But the pandemic is expected to slash household and business incomes by a 10th, and national revenues by a fifth. We can no longer afford to maintain projects out of sentiment or habit. Instead, we need to ask the cold-blooded questions about their value to society...

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