The little commitment of the ANC government to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic can be seen as nothing other than aiding and abetting the destruction of a nation. 

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. In addition, figures from the Department of Social Development (formerly Welfare and Population Development) and preliminary research by the UDM regarding the Department's own policy goals, lead us to believe that the economic impact of HIV/AIDS for South Africa will be enormous. Our conclusions are confirmed by a recently released analysis of IMF/World Bank research by renowned economist Dawie Roodt. Our conclusions illustrate the apocalyptic tragedy that faces South Africa if we do not immediately respond to this crisis. The longer the pandemic is ignored the greater the impact on
the economy. The greater the impact on the economy the more difficult it becomes to address the pandemic. The costs of addressing HIV/AIDS will escalate whilst the economy's ability to support the costs decreases. In short we are tottering on the edge of an abyss.

Although Local Government is the ideal place to turn the tide against the pandemic we see in the Medium Term budget for the next three years the same lack of funding and recognition for Local Government that has characterised the past six years of ANC rule.

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  of Finance 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, especially at Local Government level.

While some members of Government seem to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, the whole ANC Government is undoubtedly 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 firmly 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 (SA included) will experience a 1% to 2% drop in economic growth rates. The UDM estimates that this translates to between R 10 000 million and R 20 000 million lost to the economy annually.

9. Nearly 20% of all SA children could be orphans within 10 years. According to the projections undertaken by Metropolitan Life for the NGO Lovelive, HIV/AIDS will have orphaned 2 million children by the year 2010 (infection predictions by the IMF/World Bank indicate that this may be a conservative estimate). The Department of Social Development states as a policy goal that it intends to place 55% of AIDS orphans under foster care by the same year. The UDM has determined that a foster care home may spend R 22 000 per year per orphan; it is unclear what the future contribution of the Department to foster care will be. This means that the foster care bill for AIDS orphans in the year 2010 will be R 24 200 million, without taking inflation into account. Ironically the total budget for this year for the Department of Social Development is only R 383 million.

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 yet judge the behaviour of the ANC Government in the past 12 months as nothing other than genocide.

The UDM will encourage voters to give the ANC a wake-up call on the 5th of December:

Bantu Holomisa, MP
UDM President

Cape Town
15 November 2000