The ANC Government is demonstrating little commitment to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Confirmation of this lack of commitment is illustrated by  Minister Manuel's reply to a parliamentary question from Dr Gerhard  Koornhof, UDM spokesperson for Finance. A recently released analysis of  IMF/World Bank research by renowned economist Dawie Roodt, illustrates the  apocalyptic tragedy that faces South Africa if we do not immediately respond to this crisis.

Minister Manuel states that, "the economic impact of HIV/AIDS is extremely difficult to predict with accuracy at this stage", also that "it is to early to assess how the country's economic policies will be influenced by the epidemic". Maria Ramos, treasury DG, reportedly told the Parliamentary Finance Committee, regarding the future impact of the pandemic that, "at the moment we just don't know." These statements along with the pathetic 1.5% real growth in the Health budget for the next 3 years (which translates into a per capita decline) comes as a huge shock to a country already poised for disaster due to HIV/AIDS. In effect Government is telling us that until (if ever) they have concrete "facts" on the impact of HIV/AIDS there will be no  concerted effort. Ironically, the Minister contradicts such thinking in his  parliamentary reply when he states that, "the trajectory of the disease will  depend crucially on the policy responses and reactions of Government and  business over the next few years." The Minister concedes that a number of  current activities will be intensified, these being health care provision,  poverty relief and human resource development. Sadly these are some of the worst areas of performance by Government. 

While some members of Government seem to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease the whole ANC Government is definitely suffering from head-in-sand disease. The argument that a better understanding of the future impact of HIV/AIDS is required before action is taken can only come from those who have placed their heads in the sand to avoid facing reality. Dawie Roodt, respected economist, in his analysis of IMF/World Bank research comes to the following conclusions regarding the future impact of HIV/AIDS:

1. HIV/AIDS will have a substantial effect on a range of economic aggregates including GDP growth, poverty and income inequality, labour supply, domestic  savings and  productivity.

2. The initial impact will be on health care costs, erosion of the tax base and costs associated with public sector workers infected with HIV/AIDS.

3. Loss of qualified employees in the public sector will result in declining productivity and the quality of public services.

4. In the private sector similar HIV/AIDS related costs can be between 50%  and 100% of an employee's salary.

5. Some estimates suggest that up to a quarter of the skilled and educated population could be lost.

6. School dropouts will increase, as children are expected to attend to sick relatives.

7. Domestic savings will fall, as households spend more time and money to  attend to sick relatives. The private sector will also save less due to a drop in productivity and increased pressure on profits.

8. Worst affected countries will experience a 1% to 2% drop in economic growth rates.

9. Nearly 20% of all SA children could be orphans within 10 years.

10. Unemployment could increase even further as employers mechanize rather  than replace workers lost to HIV/AIDS.

11. HIV/AIDS is 3 times more prevalent amongst lower skilled workers,  meaning that the wages of skilled labour is likely to increase whilst the income of the poor are reduced.

It is abundantly clear from these figures that it is especially the poor,  the weak and the youth of South Africa who will suffer the most. These figures also illustrate the undeniable fact that HIV/AIDS will affect every single government department, and yet no integrated response between all departments have been established.

The lack of an integrated plan across all departments, driven by adequate  budgeting, is destroying South Africa's democratic gains of the past few  years. Future generations (the few that survive) may judge the behaviour of  the ANC Government in the past 12 months as nothing other than genocide.

Annelizé van Wyk, MP
UDM Parliamentary Caucus Liaison

Cape Town
8 November 2000