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JOHANNESBURG — Government works a bit like business, it has to earn revenue in order to spend. And both sides of this coin were damaged during the Zuptoid years, as the main income stream collector, SARS, was run into the ground, not helped by lagging economic policies, while spend was literally handed to friend of friends. So it’s not surprising that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic adviser Trudi Makhaya says one of the keys to the stimulus package is to create an efficient collection agency, something SARS was before the Moyane-dogged years. South Africa’s revenue shortfalls have been growing, and while better collection will help, it’s ultimately jobs that will create the double whammy effect of economic growth and increased revenues. – Stuart Lowman
The South African Revenue Service is among the key institutions eroded during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure, which was marred by alleged corruption. While SARS collected more than R1 trillion ($69 billion) annually in the last three financial years, the National Treasury estimated the country’s revenue shortfall for the year ended March 2018 at R48.2 billion.
“The structure is more or less fine, but we need to collect better,” Trudi Makhaya said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Wednesday. “The numbers are increasing but maybe we are missing out” on revenue, she said.
Ramaphosa replaced Zuma in February and has ordered an inquiry into the management and administration of the revenue service under Tom Moyane, whom he suspended as commissioner. That, and changes at the top management of state-owned companies, is part of his drive to fight corruption and turn around years off economic mismanagement under his predecessor.
The president has announced a stimulus package with reforms to boost the economy that’s in a recession and seeks to attract $100 billion of investment in the next five years. While the rand weakened after Ramaphosa’s announcement in July that the ruling African National Congress plans to change the constitution to make it easier to expropriate land without paying for it, Makhaya said a speedy conclusion to this process could minimise the risks posed by the perceived uncertainty.
“We can’t deliberate for too long. It’s key that it is resolved in the next year at least,” she said. “The best-case scenario is one where whatever is recommended provides clarity and certainty.”
The ANC, which has led South Africa since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, has struggled to reduce inequality and lower unemployment that’s at 27 percent. While it’s the continent’s most-industrialised economy, the legacy of apartheid and structural challenges still limit economic growth, according to Makhaya.
“We haven’t really overcome the legacy of apartheid in some ways, we’ve just managed to grow and stretch within those constraints,” she said. “One of the immediate priorities is to try arrest the decline and to minimise the negative overhang.”
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.