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Cutting out Wastage

Cutting out Wastage

The Phoenix editorials In the March and April 2018 issues of aBr were highly political, and I am afraid, for those of you who are heartily sick and tired of my pontifications, the May issue carries on the theme of providing advice to the president of the country. But these are highly unusual and turbulent times, which to me justifies my trilogy of high horse and soap box articles

We’ve discussed the size of the cabinet, and we have discussed, in barbed and confrontational language, albeit entirely justified, the merits of some of the cabinet appointments, and the morals and decency of the individuals involved. Now we need to revisit my central theme, our bloated and wasteful ship of state.

Before I start, some stats that I have gleaned from various articles, across the cyber and print network. The cost of VIP (vastly inflated perceptions) protection in the cash strapped developing country known as South Africa in incredible. According to researcher Gareth van Onselen, Jacob Zuma’s legacy includes a 6 600 strong private army that costs R2,6 billion a year and is accountable to no one. And listen to this – in the nine years under his predecessor‚ Thabo Mbeki‚ VIP protection cost R4,3-billion, which is in itself scandalous for a small struggling economy. But over the next decade‚ this protection rose to R18,2 billion. Absolutely unbelievable! And according to van Onselen, the budget for VIP protection is “shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation”. What lies behind these appalling figures – well, in little old South Africa 6 585 people work for VIP protection; 4,4 guards are allocated to each of the 450 South African and foreign dignitaries they protect; 24,6 protectors guard each of the 137 residences and locations they are assigned to, 47 guards are assigned to each of the 18 dignitaries covered by presidential protection services, and 88 protectors are assigned to the president. And as van Onselen points out, these figures are in sharp contrast to the one police officer for every 346 citizens - in other words‚ the president’s level of protection is 30 448 times what is available to each ordinary South African. You want more? VIP protection will cost R2,6 billion this year‚ compared with R234 million when it first appeared in the estimates of national expenditure in 2001. That is an increase of 1 011%‚ almost four times higher than the 254% increase in inflation over the same period.

No wonder that SA dropped from 25th to 33rd out of 101 countries between 1996 and 2016 according to Centennial’s Economic Resilience Framework, and government’s effectiveness showed the most dramatic deterioration, falling by 10 index points from 97,4 to 87,3. Manu Bhaskaran, CEO of Centennial Asia Advisors, notes that the effectiveness of a country’s civil service matters in determining its economic resilience, as the combination of political capacity and strong governance results in a more efficient economy.

So, based on this, where do we start? First, we cut down the size of the cabinet dramatically, by at least 50%. If I had my way, South Africa would not even have a cabinet, because if the truth be told, cabinet ministers are oxygen thieves, who not only do nothing constructive, they actually obstruct the workings of the departments they theoretically support. Secondly, if we do have to have cabinet ministers for purely ceremonial reasons, then their salaries should be, at an absolute maximum, R35 000 per month. Not a bad salary, considering that these very same oxygen thieves believe that a minimum wage of R20 per hour is a good place to start for the actual workers of the country. Thirdly, no VIP protection whatsoever, and definitely no blue light brigades. To protect this lot is akin to high powered security guards riding shotgun on honey suckers. And for those of you have led sheltered lives, a honey sucker is a vacuum truck used to empty septic tanks and pit latrines.

I could fill this magazine with more suggestions, but for now this diatribe will suffice. And who knows, if only a fraction of what I am is implemented, South Africa could lead the way in showing the rest of the world how to deal with their bloated bureaucracies.

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