Time and again it’s workers who bear the brunt of state ...

Ideas

Time and again it’s workers who bear the brunt of state ineptitude

They are not the source of SA’s economic woes, yet the public service wage bill is always targeted

Columnist

Whenever there is an economic or financial crisis in SA the first thing lazy analysts do is scapegoat workers for having caused it. Workers, who had little to do with creating the catastrophe, are then expected to be the only ones to take the pain. This is not fair.

At Eskom, employee benefit expenses declined to 16.5% of revenues in 2020 from 23.6% in 2007. This was the only item on the Eskom income statement that declined over the same period. By comparison, primary energy costs increased 8.6 times between 2007 and 2020. Everyone says Eskom must cut its wage bill, but nobody says what must be done to reduce other costs, which accounted for 97% of revenues in 2020.

Over the past few years the National Treasury has been scapegoating workers, blaming them for the country’s economic problems, including the rising debt to GDP ratio. But public workers are not the cause of the country’s economic crisis. In the 2020 medium-term budget policy statement the Treasury said above-inflation increases in the public sector wage bill contributed R174bn to the increase in compensation between 2006/2007 and 2019/2020...

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