Statement by FMF Chief Executive Officer, Leon Louw
Advocates of the lockdown ignore the most basic law of life – that benefits have costs and that costs easily exceed benefits. People’s most ‘essential’ need is income; the country’s most ‘essential’ need is production. The government’s decision to extend the lockdown might cause more premature deaths than far less extreme measures, or even lifting existing measures completely. The economic and human rights impact is more extreme than all, but few are paying attention.
The best way to extend life is to replace poverty with prosperity. Poverty is a killer. By increasing poverty, the lockdown increases the death rate. The health and wealth loss is likely to exceed real or imagined lockdown benefits. Wealth destroyed by the lockdown could fund universal healthcare, which would save tens of thousands of lives.
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.
People unable to sustain medical scheme payments will be deprived of critical healthcare. Not only are South Africans being subjected to totalitarianism and economic ruin, but the lockdown might, on balance, have negative health impacts, especially for the poor.
The FMF’s research suggests that the lockdown costs the country at least R10-billion daily, or R350- billion 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 healthcare, modernise and upgrade all clinics, and fund thousands more doctors, nurses, teachers or police.
I know of households, and small and informal businesses, where income has fallen to zero. All said that they were told that they do not qualify for assistance. Their lives are ruined.
Economic loss is eternal: R350 billion or more is being lost forever. It can never be recovered. Compounded at 10%, the loss doubles every seven years. At 5%, it doubles every fourteen years. One of the hardest things to do during a fear-inducing pandemic, is retain perspective.
There is rarely a greater need than now to appreciate the iron law of life that there are no benefits without costs.
Note: This article was submitted by the Free Market Foundation as an opinion piece by the chief executive officer. The publishing of this content does not link any interpretation, statement or implication that these views are the sentiment or views of Timber IQ as a brand nor that Timber IQ endorses these views. Timber IQ remains a neutral publisher of relevant information for businesses serving the industry.