light the way, manuel

Robert Laing, Xolile Bhengu and Zweli Mokgata

Robert Laing, Xolile Bhengu and Zweli Mokgata

Trevor Manuel will deliver the 2008-2009 budget in exactly one month, on February 20, his 12th since taking over as the country's Finance Minister.

In line with the minister's campaign, Tips for Trevor, which asks the public to send Manuel their wish lists before the annual budget speech, Sowetan has invited economists, analysts and activists to give him some tips on how he should handle this year's budget.

As Manuel jets off to the World Economic Forum's annual meeting which starts on Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, we hope he will consider our proposals and give us a budget which will lift South Africa out of the two Ps: poverty and power cuts.

Mike Schussler, chief economist at T-Sec, said power supply has to be one of the top priorities.

No more increases for parliamentarians till the power gets back, he said, adding that in fact they should receive a 2percent salary deduction every time the power goes out.

"We need real infrastructure spending for the economy to move forward. I would like Manuel to increase the budget spend on electricity supply, roads, public transport and we are already expecting the rail network spend to continue."

John Loos, property strategist for FNB, said: "I'd like the Finance Minister to increase the transfer cost duties on properties. He should continue from the trend from his decision two years ago of exempting properties worth less than R500000 from transfer duties."

Martha Molete, Cancer Association of South Africa head of communication, said the minister should raise taxes on cigarettes and use that income to finance cancer prevention. She added: "Many other countries already do this."

Nathan Geffen, Treatment Action Campaign spokesman said he should allocate money for anti-retroviral drugs.

Eustace Davie, Free Market Foundation director, said: "Manuel must follow Mauritius' example by moving to a 15percent flat rate tax for both companies and individuals. "He must abolish exchange controls."

Rejane Woodrow, Metropolitan Asset Managers chief economist, said it would be nice to see an increase in social grants above the inflation rate.

Woodrow said: "Food is running at an inflation of 12percent, and the poorest of the poor use their money mostly for food. It would be nice to see an increase of around 10 to 15percent.

"Another worrying issue is how little sin taxes go up by, especially alcohol which only goes up a few cents each year.

"With the incredibly high violent crimes associated with alcohol (90percent of domestic violence is alcohol fueled), I think alcohol should receive a heavier penalty, especially spirits."

Tony Twine, Econometrix director, said: "The one thing that I would like to see more detail on is the national insurance scheme, which was only briefly approached last year.

"The details were sketchy, and we would like to see how a compulsory savings scheme (similar to the US social security system) would be structured. My thinking of it is that it would work with existing private schemes, but take precedents."

Wendy Machanik, owner of Wendy Machanik Properties, said: "I would like to see Manuel lower interest rates and stop the hikes that are crippling the little guy to a more comfortable level.

"I would also like to see the transfer duty exemption to extend to properties of a minimum of R750000 and ideally R1million. The R500000 maximum is unrealistic today because there are very few properties for that amount.

"The government can also take a leaf from the Brazilian government, which has improved Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro's poor people's lives by going the extra mile in providing shelter, food and clothing."