Citizens of South Africa still await a clear answer from government as to the source of funding for the Covid-19 vaccine, which by the end of the year, could have been supplied to around 40 million people. President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his last family meeting that the details of the funding would be unpacked by finance minister Tito Mboweni in his budget speech.
However, opposition parties were quick to warn government against the increasing of taxes as the citizenry is already overburdened. The Democratic Alliance (DA) were the first to object to tax hikes while the labour federation, Cosatu went as far threatening not to support the ANC in the municipal elections if there could be a freeze in salary hikes.
While the state coffers had already been stretched to their limits, the president recently announced that government is planning to supply about 40 million people with vaccines before the end of this year. During a recent media interview Ramaphosa said that money is available for vaccines. “There can never be any talk that we don`t money for vaccines to save the lives of our people” he said.
Ramaphosa promised that everyone will have access to the vaccines which would be acquired through three channels; World Health Organisation’s Covax facility, the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through contacts with the vaccine manufacturers. Adding that 20 million vaccines are to be distributed in the first half of 2021.
Economists do not foresee a large-scale increase in taxes to fund the vaccines and speculate instead that there will be increases on the fuel levy, sin taxes for cigarettes and liquor, exorbitant fines for disregarding Covid-19 regulations, and an introduction of wealth tax. However, treasury could not respond immediately and said it will announce any tax changes and detailed money matters on Budget day in February.
The DA labelled the increases by Treasury as morally indefensible and bad economic policy. The wage hike freeze had been in the news for some time last year when finance minister Tito Mboweni told labour unions that the government could not afford the salary hike increase for the coming three years as at the time they spent over 61 % of the budget on paying workers.
Meanwhile, the Special Investigating Unit is following an instruction from the office of the president and probing several cases of corruption related to PPE tenders since the start of the pandemic.