One-off tax not the answer as there’s more to the economy than money - Businesslive

30 August 2021 - Milling around outside the Cape presidential residence, then called Groote Schuur, awaiting the outcome of the first official meeting between the ANC and government in May 1990, I remember overhearing a conversation between a young activist fresh from the ranks of the Mass Democratic Movement and a curious foreign correspondent.

Milling around outside the Cape presidential residence, then called Groote Schuur, awaiting the outcome of the first official meeting between the ANC and government in May 1990, I remember overhearing a conversation between a young activist fresh from the ranks of the Mass Democratic Movement and a curious foreign correspondent.

The young woman was part of the ANC’s security detail and the journalist was interested to know what motivated her. “Politics,” she said, “makes the world go round.” It was obvious she saw a role for herself in the next portentous rotation.

I felt almost guilty at being instantly reminded of the Cabaret song and its cheerlessly brassy refrain: “Money money money money; Mark, a yen, a buck or a pound; That clinking, clanking, clunking sound; Is all that makes the world go round.”

And perhaps that young activist has turned out to be very wealthy — there is, after all, a pattern of crystalline idealism taking on a very different kind of glitter over time. At any rate, we might today feel confident to judge her conviction of 1990 as quite wrong: money, as Sally Bowles and the MC of the Kit Kat Klub had it, really makes the world go round.

Or does it? Of course, the economy is central to everything, but there’s more to the economy than money. How much money we have, and what we do with it, is an expression of choices, convictions, abilities and ambitions which, sometimes successfully sometimes not, we align as best we can with the inescapable requirement of paying our way.

A productive life is not necessarily a profitable one, and doesn’t have to be. The corollary — except for thieves — is that a profitable life must be a productive one. Why, then, the assumption that without money good things are impossible to achieve? Or that with it anything’s possible?

I’m unconvinced — and it’s my main objection to the recurring proposal for a one-off tax to help buy a solution to what Thuli Madonsela described in the Financial Mail last week as “the socioeconomic legacy of the racially unjust laws of the past” .

Opposition, as her article suggests, invariably arises from arguments against paying — it was just a wealth tax in disguise, it would discourage investors, it would only give cover for the corrupt. But will spending more deliver solutions?

Madonsela makes a case for such a tax helping “to accelerate our push for parity in areas like education”. Indeed, education is the bedrock of socioeconomic progress, but it’s less obvious that money is the problem.

I often think back to my senior colleague John Kane-Berman’s 2018 report “Achievement and enterprise in school education” based on a pilot study of 12 top-scoring schools in Gauteng, including five no-fee township schools. All 10 of the secondary schools achieved pass rates of between 93% and 100%.

In all 12 schools key markers of success were the presence of committed, competent principals; devoted, hard-working teachers; strong parental involvement; and an emphasis on discipline and instilling positive values in pupils.

At one no-fee township school, 40% of whose 1, 300 pupils lived in shacks, the headmaster commented: “Everyone can pass given the right environment. The community is proud of the school, and it knows about our discipline and good results.”

Such a school would use any extra money well, but it’s doubtful money alone would replicate its success across the rest of the country’s almost 24,000 public schools classified as too poor to charge fees. Isn’t that the challenge?

• Morris is head of media at the SA Institute of Race Relations.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/columnists/2021-08-29-michael-morris-one-off-tax-not-the-answer-as-theres-more-to-the-economy-than-money/

© 2020 South African Institute of Race Relations
CMS Website by Juizi

Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | PAIA Manual | Accuracy Guarantee | Sponsors & Donors

m