The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has stuck to its positions on the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme and the extension of social security in South Africa, despite the rollback of these measures.
In his closing remarks at the ANC’s national executive committee meeting on Sunday (November 13th), party chairman Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC would continue to tackle the “triple fault lines” of poverty , unemployment and inequality in South Africa.
Stemming from days of engagement between key ruling party figureheads, the president said the ANC has engaged critically with the challenges facing the country today.
Exacerbated by the Russian war in Ukraine, the economic repercussions of the two-year pandemic and extreme weather events resulting from climate change, many countries around the world, including South Africa, are facing difficulties as the day-to-day living costs are rising, Ramaphosa said.
To mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living, he said the party has carried out several interventions, many of which remain in place, such as:
- Social Relief Distress grant extended to March 2024;
- Zero-rate VAT on the main food products;
- Consolidate social assistance to reach 18 million people.
Going forward, without giving specific plans, Ramaphosa said the ANC will redouble its efforts to deal with the growing crisis by extending social grants where possible and focusing on the education of basic and universal health care.
“We are committed to maintaining and, where possible, extending social security to protect the vulnerable and reduce poverty,” Ramaphosa said. “This must be part of our efforts to build a comprehensive social security system.”
The party highlighted its pursuit of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme and accelerated land redistribution — two of the most controversial policies in its current basket — while talking about black economic empowerment and cracking down on poverty. corruption.
Social distress allowance
One of the most controversial developments is the extension and increased applicability of the Social Distress Grant.
In Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s last medium-term fiscal policy statement in October, the Covid-19 Social Relief Distress (SRD) grant was extended until the end of March 2024.
“The SRD grant was introduced in May 2020 as a temporary measure to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, who have been affected by [Covid-19 induced] containment measures. It has been extended several times since then. Discussions about the future of the grant are ongoing and involve very difficult trade-offs and funding decisions,” Godognwana said.
The National Treasury has found that the SRD grant is likely to increase by around 8.8% per year and the implications it could have on state finances could reach R64.9 billion in the financial year. 2030/21.
Despite this tax grab, recent amendments to the subsidy have raised the income threshold for the means test from R350 to the food poverty threshold of R624 per month – allowing more people to qualify, with up to R12 million now applying each month.
The Treasury noted that this is not sustainable and that economic growth through employment is a better bet for solving poverty in the country.
The National Department of Health, meanwhile, is moving forward with laying the groundwork for the eventual deployment of the NHI in South Africa, although laws governing the scheme have yet to be approved and many legal questions remain.
While systems for sharing information between the private and public sectors are being put in place and recruitment for key INSA positions is now allowed to continue, no one in government has yet been able to s address the elephant in the room: how much will the diagram cost?
The government’s push for the NHI comes amid a cacophony of warnings and dissenting voices saying the program is unaffordable, unmanageable and unsustainable.
Private health care groups have been the the most vocal on this frontclaiming that the system is being set up for failure given the scale of what the government wants to achieve in the context of how it has already failed in the public health space.
We are also concerned about a exodus of health professionals who refuse to be subjected to the harsh conditions of the regime, as evidenced by the court decision which the department is appealing.
Medical aids have fought for their continued existence, given that the NHI scheme envisions a healthcare system with the state fully in control and little or no room for private financing of health care.