Matthew Lester: Taxpayer revolution. R90bn UIF surplus to the rescue.

Following the student protests, which kicked off last week, Matthew Lester is again looking for solutions, and fast. The last thing we want is for this to boil over. He turns his head towards the department of labour and digs into the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s 2014 annual report. In it he finds an accumulated surplus of R90 billion, while investments and cash exceed this. Surely herein lies the answer and conversely, the more people working, the bigger the UIF contributions will become. Win-win. – Stuart Lowman

By Matthew Lester*

Lets accept that we are all in the mess that is the student fees crisis together. So it’s up to all of us to find a way out.

I have already written last week that there is money within the SETA system, and Government appears to be mulling that one over.

South Africa's banknotes, which features an image of former president Nelson Mandela on the front in Pretoria November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa’s banknotes, which features an image of former president Nelson Mandela on the front in Pretoria November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

And Finance Minister Nene referred to the Employment Tax Incentive ETI and how R3.9 billion has been paid to 36,000 employers of 250,000 employees. We have no idea if these are new jobs or whether big business is not claiming ETI every time they replace an employee with a new employee under the age of 30. In short we don’t know of that R3.9bn has achieved more than the dot on the i in the word sh.t.

Read also: Matthew Lester: #FeesMustFall – Academic week lost, unknown consequences.

So there is money out there. But it will take time that we don’t have to get it.

So what about a controversial emergency measure. No, not a tax increase thanks. If a million students can cause chaos imagine what 5 million taxpayers could do if they got off their bums?

Go to the department of labour website and pick up the fantastic package that is the 2014 annual report of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Press download and go to the Statement of Financial Performance at page 110.

You will find that there was a surplus on UIF for 2014 of R12bn. Okay that’s down a bit from R16bn in 2013. Yes, employees have been paying in more UIF than needed for years.

Read also: UIF decision reverses ministerial proposals

Then go to the statement of financial position 2014 on page 111. The technical reserves and accumulated surplus of the UIF fund is currently R90bn. And the investments and cash sit at over R93bn.

Now surely the student fee crisis is of relevance to the department of labour. The more graduates the higher the contribution.

It would be the biggest comeback since Lazarus if government departments could work together and access just a bit of this fund to act as a quick solution to what is a national crisis.

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