Alexander Forbes’s Isaah Mhlanga argues in his column that concerns about the tax burden falling “unfairly” on a narrow group of people are misplaced (“Lies, damned lies and statistics about taxpayers,” March 4). “Those who earn should make every effort, with the desire and effort of those who do not earn, together with the government, to unshackle the chains of income and wealth inequality,” he says.

However, unless a catastrophic levelling down is envisaged, SA will not emerge from its economic malaise without massively increased investment, growth and employment creation.

Mhlanga is correct to note the historical roots of these problems, but neglects to mention that large elements of official policy since 1994, accelerating over the past decade, have compounded them. These include a failure to deliver adequate education outcomes, the deliberate politicisation of the civil service, counter-productive empowerment policy, and the current push to degrade property rights.

This has put SA into decline. Indeed, the sense of resentment among the country’s taxpayers — irrespective of the nature or scale of their contributions — is palpable. Not only is there the misuse of revenue collected, but those who can afford to do so need to provide privately for services that are nominally covered by their taxes. On top of this, the expropriation without compensation agenda threatens an effective 100% wealth and income tax on those subjected to it.

As a consequence, expect the fiscal position to decline further. It will not recover without substantive policy change. For reasons both ideological and venal, it is unrealistic to bank on government to "unshackle" the country. Its intentions are rather geared towards greater extraction.

Perhaps the question is whether those with influence — such as in the country’s corporate sector — will be willing to push seriously for the reforms without which SA’s future is in jeopardy. Or will they merely ask for more comfortable shackles?

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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