LETTER: SA can’t afford to lose doctors
Health minister is wrong to put resources elsewhere
“Anything we can actually do, we can afford.” This quote from John Maynard Keynes applies to SA. If we have the resources to build hospitals and educate doctors, we can pay them. Money is not in short supply. Doctors are.
The health minister explains that there is a need for many doctors in public hospitals, but government can’t afford to hire more because of a lack of (financial) resources (“Health minister Joe Phaahla bemoans budget cuts hitting hiring of doctors”, February 6).
It is said that the government needs our taxes to spend on doctors’ salaries, but tax revenue has declined so budgets have been cut. This thinking is limiting our ability to achieve much for the public good in this country. The healthcare system should be our investment in the people.
Keynes also said: “Today all money is, beyond dispute, chartalist.” Here, chartal means that government is the issuer of the money and therefore does not have to collect it from you in order to spend. Your taxes do things other than fund government. Only when the economy is at full capacity does it appear that taxes fund government because the two numbers, spending and tax revenue, are then equal.
Affordability is about using resources wisely. We don’t have the resources to do everything all at once. We must choose what we can afford. At the national level it is not about money. Governments are not like households.
The SA government needs the resources of the private sector to be freed up for public use. Currently some of those resources are available — labour is in excess and there is some production space, given that we are operating at only about 75% of capacity. Taxes serve not to fund, but to free up resources.
We can afford to pay these doctors. We cannot afford to lose these doctors to distant shores.
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