Botswana, not SA, should be seen as the shining example for other African states to follow. It is not only the most politically responsible African state, having condemned and opposed the proposed mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, but it is also the most economically responsible African state.
Business Day reported that Air Botswana, the national airline, is going to be freed of state management, which is something the South African government should have done decades ago with that leech on the taxpayer, SAA (State airline to be privatised, February 14).
Air Botswana, like SAA, has not been doing well, along with other state-owned enterprises, but unlike the Botswanan government, our government is dead-set on keeping its airline, whether as a flimsy indicator of national prestige or another way of lining some pockets.
The argument is often made by politicians that a national airline is needed for the poor not to be excluded from air travel, but clearly this has largely been deceptive.
SAA’s prices are more or less comparable to its private competitors, and thus the poor in any case do not fly nearly as often as those more well-to-do. The principal difference between SAA and private airlines is that whereas private airlines need to consider all factors in the decisions they make so as to avoid losses and potential bankruptcy, SAA can rely on the seemingly never-ending stream of taxpayer funds.
It is self-evident that private sector companies outperform their state-owned counterparts in every way, including on price.
Unfortunately, with the government’s plans for National Health Insurance and a potential telecommunication monopoly, it seems economic awareness or understanding is lost on our politicians.
Martin van Staden
Legal researcher, Free Market Foundation