“Terms and Conditions Apply.” Don’t you just love that little line that advertisers have to append to their advertisements. “Drink responsibly, not for sale to persons under the age of 18,” is another. What’s the point? Do we even listen? Have you noticed how quickly these lines are spoken? Time’s money, and when you only have 30 seconds to get your message across, adding these mandatory lines just means less time for the product.
Which brings me to my point. Which is……….? Oh yes, now I remember. Have you noticed how our Government, through it’s various ministerial spokesmen, quotes various project costs in billions as if it’s not really money? Billions are definitely the new millions, and I don’t believe that it all has to do with inflation. South Africa seems awash with excess tax money, with numerous departments under-spending their budgets year after year. Now this is a good thing, you may say. this means that we have expanded our tax base (the number of taxpayers actually paying tax) and our collections are more effective.
My candidate for the Presidential nomination, Trevor Manuel, just smiles and presents his budget year after year in Parliament, and always reports a budget surplus. This is not a good thing. “Shock and horror”, you may cry. “What is this madman talking about? ” I’ll tell you what I am talking about. With all of this excess tax money, and departments, even with their best efforts, not being able to spend it all, we have a situation where corruption and waste can thrive. There is no culture of saving and conserving resources. We live in a time of plenty, so let’s just waste it.
I am a fan of really small governments. Governments who keep out of my way and concentrate on the absolutely vital things like protecting our borders from illegal immigrants, poverty relief, health services and the criminal justice system. I don’t want a government that builds soccer stadiums, interferes in selection of sports teams, or imposes their racist policies on how I choose to run my business.
Instead of the government dreaming up new ways to spend our money, what they should rather do is practice Zero-based Budgeting. This entails not looking at last years budget, but starting from scratch every year and budgeting what they absolutely need. When this amount is arrived at, the tax rates for the following year are set. I don’t believe it happens this way. I think they milk the taxpayers for as much as they can get away with, and then frantically try and spend as much of it as possible.
The budget means absolutely nothing to most taxpayers (and even less to those who don’t pay tax.) I would like a system whereby every number published by Government, by law, has to be expresses as a PER-TAXPAYER COST (PTC). I know that personal Income Tax is only one of many sources of revenue, and yes I know that all taxpayers are in different tax brackets, but I’m sure that our Department of Statistics could arrive at a figure to divide by. I have no clue how many taxpayers we have in South Africa, but let’s say its 20 million. If the Government issues a statement, for example, about the costs of the 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadiums, wouldn’t it mean more if expressed as follows;
“Infrastructure costs for the 2010 Soccer World Cup have escalated from R2.8 billion (R140 PTC) to R3.4 billion (R170 PTC) , Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi said today in Pretoria.”
This now means something to me. Where previously my contribution towards the stadiums was R140, it is now R170. It gives me a clearer picture of what it costs ME, but more importantly, it gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility. I think that I’ll be more likely to stand up and protest about wastage and corruption if I know how it is affecting MY pocket.