Picture: 123RF/UFUK ZIVANA
Picture: 123RF/UFUK ZIVANA

These days we can go from fear of a novel virus to concern for the financial sector in a single sentence.

In a time of national disaster (and please don’t encourage those seeking the powers centralised under a full-blown state of emergency) befalling the most unequal industrialised society on the planet, surely we need a more targeted approach than discussing “how to oil the wheels of the economy”.

That telling phrase from a page three headline of Tuesday’s edition was at least consistent with the content of Lynley Donnelly’s piece, unlike the front page headline “Government scrambles to limit spread of virus”, for an article that opens with “SA’s stock markets crashed…” and only got to measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 deep into page two, briefly, before returning to the financial sector.

Of real concern is that article reporting our finance minister proposing “further spending cuts to government programmes”, echoed in an opinion piece with direct reference to social spending. In the face of a pandemic that poses the greatest health risk to the half of South Africans living in poverty, including up to a quarter of all children that official statistics record as undernourished, for any fiscal provision for “economic stimulus” to involve further reducing social welfare would be criminal.

By all means discuss ways to put more money into our economy, but for goodness sake find ways to do it from the bottom up. Many avenues are available, from existing public works programmes to the potential to extend access to electricity with locally produced solar PV systems.

The edition was redeemed by Neva Makgetla’s voice of reason, cutting through corporate clamour for assistance, which recommends “a creative policy response” recognising the potential for local interventions and organisations to participate in disaster response.

Please let’s deliver “economic stimulus” through the people, including social grant recipients, even if we also have to prop up the status quo.

Richard Worthington, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

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