CR defends booze ban, Sars boss warns of tax losses; London Covid-19 alert; civil servant pay

By Jackie Cameron

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the alcohol ban – even though it has emerged that the country has lost as much, if not more, in tax revenues as it has received in emergency Covid-19 funding. Although the rate of transmission appears to be stabilising and SA has a low number of Covid-19 deaths (just over 8,000) as a proportion of the population, restrictions won’t be eased for now. In a letter to the nation, President Ramaphosa said: “We have already seen, for example, that the suspension of alcohol sales has significantly reduced the trauma cases in our health facilities. While these changes can be disruptive to people’s lives and to the economy, it is necessary that we adapt to the changing path of the disease.” After a rapid rise in infections over the last two months, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape, he noted. “While it may be too soon to draw firm conclusions, this suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect. Our recovery rate is currently around 68%. Our case fatality rate – which is the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases – remains at 1.6%, significantly lower than the global average.” President Ramaphosa also said that, while South Africa has the fifth highest number of total Covid-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population. “While it may be too soon to draw firm conclusions, this suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect.”
  • Elsewhere there are concerns that the spread of Covid-19 is picking up. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering sealing off Greater London and ordering at-risk members of the population to stay at home under a potential scenario designed to avert a second national lockdown, according to news reports. Australia’s Victoria state tightened restrictions and declared a state of disaster after its outbreak showed no signs of abating, says Bloomberg, noting that the state will put Metropolitan Melbourne under a curfew limiting movement between 8pm to 5am. “Virus cases slowed in Japan and Germany, while US nationwide deaths exceeded 1,000 for a fifth consecutive day. Israel’s Minister of Jerusalem affairs tested positive for the virus, prompting controls of people he encountered in the Knesset.”
  • South Africa lost more in tax revenue in the first three-and-half months of its fiscal year than it borrowed from the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank combined, reports Bloomberg. The Covid-19 lockdown that initially shuttered almost all economic activity led to an under-recovery of R82bn for the fiscal year through July 15, South African Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said. Bloomberg reports that, in the three months through June, there was an under-recovery of about R47bn, with excise-duty collections including levies on alcohol, tobacco products and fuel contracting 42% from a year earlier. To help the battered economy and fight the pandemic, South Africa has borrowed $4.3bn from the IMF, R5bn ($294m) from the AfDB and $1bn from the New Development Bank.
  • South Africa’s economy could contract by more than 8% this year, if a second wave of Covid-19 cases hits the country and its main trading partners, the OECD says. The South African economy is in tatters, partly because of Covid-19 but largely because it has been mismanaged for more than a decade, as the OECD report on South Africa highlights. In this massive 150-page report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development singles out some specific aspects for attention, most notably that civil servants suck up the equivalent of 12% of Gross Domestic Product in wages. This is very high by world standards. For more on that, visit BizNews.com.
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