The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), the biggest transformative and progressive trade union in the public sector, an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and its members who are frontline combatants, in health and in the public sector in the fight against COVID 19 pandemic, notes that the Minister of Finance will table before parliament on the 24th June 2020 a revised budget.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many governments have implemented prolonged lockdowns of social and economic activity. COVID-19 has added more strain on health systems of different countries across the world. Human toll is already large and continues to grow with hundreds of thousands of deaths, and many more suffering from diminished prospects and disrupted livelihoods.
The world is facing an unprecedented health, social and economic crisis equal to, if not worse than the 1930s Great Depression. Many countries are getting rid of the baggage of neo-liberal orthodox and conservative macroeconomic policy approaches. Unconventional macroeconomic, industrial, health and social policies are becoming the new normal, and countries that are effective in fighting the decease are distinguished by their nonconventional approach to both health and economic policy responses.
These unconventional measures are informed by the fact that the worse is still to come, as demonstrated by the following dire state of the global economy:
1. World Bank forecast 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP
2. With up to half the global workforce at the risk of losing their jobs
3. Billions of people especially in the global South pushed back into poverty and hunger
4. World Trade Organization (WTO) expects that the decline in international trade will be between 13 and 32 percent
The crisis we are in and the response by different economies has demonstrated the global imbalances, unequal and uneven nature of the global economy.
The developed and advanced capitalist economies have so far committed on average almost 30 percent of their GDPs to fight the pandemic, while the overall commitments of developing economies does not even come close to 5 percent.
General government health expenditure in low and middle income economies amounts to only 3 percent of GDP. The European Union has four physicians per 1000 people, low and middle income countries have one physician per 1000 people and low income countries have one physician per 2000 people. Developing countries are especially exposed to the Covid-19 outbreak given their limited ICU capacity. In China and India, for example, the number of critical care beds per 100,000 people stands at just 3.6 and 2.3 respectively, compared with 29.2 registered in Germany.
We call on the South African government, as led by our glorious movement the African National Congress (ANC), to get rid of the conventional, orthodox, conservative neoliberal economic policy practice and reverse the austerity measures that are anti-poor and have led to deindustrialisation, destroyed the capacity of the state, the health system, and weakened our social and housing policy.
We are extremely disappointed that frontline combatants of this war against this invisible enemy are made casualties by being led to die on their own without the necessary protection from the employers. Nurses, doctors, police officers, soldiers and frontline public servants are made to die because of the austerity measures that Treasury has been pursuing for more than a decade, whether in a form of budget cuts, failure to adequately fill huge vacancies in essential services, and fiscal consolidation that has hollowed the state capacity.
We demand that the Supplementary Budget that will be tabled on the 24th June should be pro-poor, visionary, decisive, and unconventional. It should be ambitious, have high impact and a state driven stimulus for economic recovery for reindustrialisation and be orientated towards meeting social needs. We demand the following:
1. Honouring in full the 2018 public sector wage agreement and that government should back-pay the increases as of the 1st April 2020 including an implementation of an affordable quality housing scheme for public sector workers as part of a stimulus package.
2. A trillion Rand state-led infrastructure investment program for health, social and economic sectors, funded by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB)
3. Immediate implementation and resourcing of the National Health Insurance (NHI) and a comprehensive social security
4. An immediate implementation of the Wealth Tax
5. An imposition of capital controls to curb illicit and short term capital flows
6. An imposition of price controls on essential goods
7. An imposition of prescribed assets investments or high impact investment to drive growth, infrastructure development, and broad-based industrialisation
NEHAWU demands that the ANC led government must radically implement its resolutions of Radical Socio-Economic Transformation Program as adopted by its successive National Congresses and the macroeconomic framework proposed in the 2019 Elections Manifesto.
NEHAWU will continue to mobilise its gallant combatants to fight for their rightfully earned share in the national income. In this regard, we call on all progressive forces to fight side by side with workers in the public and private sector, and be part of a popular front against austerity measures and neoliberal economic policies.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org