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Lockdown is costing SA an estimated R10bn a day, says FMF

Free Market Foundation argues government should lift the lockdown, promote healthy behaviour, implement pro-market structural reforms, and let people return to work.
Free Market Foundation argues government should lift the lockdown, promote healthy behaviour, implement pro-market structural reforms, and let people return to work.
Image: Leon Swart/123rf.com

The Free Market Foundation says its research suggests that SA's Covid-19 lockdown is costing the country at least R10bn daily, or R350bn in five weeks.

“That is enough for 3.5 million RDP houses; enough to house all homeless people and people crammed into overcrowded shanties. It is enough to feed 30 million undernourished people daily or build twenty hospitals ... every day. It could fund universal health care, modernise and upgrade all clinics, and fund thousands more doctors, nurses, teachers or police,” the organisation says.

FMF CEO Leon Louw said in a statement: “All experts agree that there is great uncertainty about the lockdown's benefits. Experts admit to knowing almost nothing with certainty about the health implications of totalitarian lockdown, such as whether it will merely 'flatten the curve', that is, have roughly the same number of infections spread over a longer period, or whether it will save a few thousand lives.

“Against that uncertainty, we know with absolute certainty the extent to which freedom has been obliterated temporarily, and will probably be compromised permanently. And we know with certainty that it is an is economic scorched earth policy.

“ ... The government's decision to extend the lockdown might cause more premature deaths than far less extreme measures, or even lifting existing measures completely,” he said in a statement.

“The economic and human rights impact is more extreme than all but a few realise. Poverty is a killer ... The health and wealth loss is likely to exceed real or imagined lockdown benefits.”

Louw said he knew of households, and small and informal businesses, where income has fallen to zero.

Aspects of the lockdown are questionable, he said.

“What may not be sold is irrational and arbitrary. How the law is interpreted varies widely. For instance, one store I visited would not sell a toilet bowl plunger; another did. One would not sell tools; another did. A store manager could not tell me whether chewing gum or chewing tobacco is food.

“The bizarre prohibition of tobacco and alcohol is reprehensible. In addition to violating human rights, normal people are incentivised to resort to crime: trading in black markets, looting and burglary. Increased depression and stress, in addition to being locked down, is increasing domestic violence.

“ ... One of the hardest things to do during a fear-inducing pandemic, is retain perspective.

“What the government should do urgently is lift the lockdown, promote healthy behaviour, promote prosperity by implementing long overdue pro-market structural reforms, and to get those people lucky enough to have a job, back to work. Employers could be induced to promote safe working conditions (as mandated by labour law), and police and soldiers could be explaining and encouraging safe behaviour.”

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