Who Will the Government Ban on Buying Booze Really Hurt?

This week’s mini-budget was disturbing. Not only was projected growth scaled down, but there was little indication that government has the slightest clue on how to get us out of the mass-unemployment trap into which the country has fallen. Attention inevitably fell on some of the measures to clamp down on the worst excesses of our kleptocratic politicians and officials, but there was one measure which worries me. Those who encounter me at company briefings and other events will know that I am partial to a glass of good wine with good food. And even when the standard of corporate catering is really pathetic, as is often the case, the wine can be a small compensation – when offered. Now, there are many government functions where I am sure the guests neither deserve good booze or much good grub either. However, there are events where our taxes are used to help promote the most deserving industry in this country – the Cape Wine industry. If Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is really banning booze at State Functions and diplomatic events, I would be worried, not that ZA Confidential is often on the guest list for these. I suspect what Gordhan is doing is shifting the bar bills from the State to the private sector – seeking sponsorship for the alcohol. If so, the impact may be dampened and there might be good reason to raise our glasses to the Minister. But what do our experts make of all this?

Frans Cronje from the SA Institute of Race Relations:
Nice sentiment but let’s not get carried away. This is not why we have a deficit crisis and nor will it solve the crisis. The real issue is growth, investment and the policies that undermine these outcomes. If the government were as bold on these harmful policies – stricter employment equity and BEE, cadre deployment, more taxation, failed schools, and increased labour regulation – as it promises to be on its liquor bill we would indeed have something to celebrate. In some respects it suggests the limited scope of influence granted to our finance minister by the president and the cabinet that he is allowed to determine the lunch bill but not to change much in terms of policies that actually matter. The minister wants to tell the country that this is austerity. If his government really wanted to save resources for South Africa it would cut the mounting pile of costs being foisted on investors and consumers. The real waste is not ministers having a tipple. It is paying the administration fees of e-Tolls. It is new carbon taxes. It is raising the cost of business via new BEE goalposts. But he is impotent on these issues because his cabinet is not yet ready to make the hard choices to reform SA’s economy. You can add to my list the costs of bailing out SAA and the SABC and a host of other state-owned enterprises. In fact he has done his cabinet colleagues a disservice – because with what is in store for our economy they will need more than a few stiff drinks.

Duane Newman from Cova Advisory:
As leaders in government they need to lead by example and practice what they preach. For many years we have not seen that, as government leaders spent with little regard to the example they set. Now that government have taken a harder line on alcohol, it is pleasing to see that they are leading by example ..t is also pleasing that limits will be set on vehicles purchased and credit cards will be cut up. I know I cut up my own corporate credit card when I was in business as it is just too easy to spend on it. If you have to spend on your personal card and claim it back, there will be a lot more rigour in the process. While there are limits on (the cost of official) cars, I would like to see government leaders being forced to buy locally-made cars. Buy local is also another government lead initiative.

Food and Wine guru Michael Olivier:
I am thrilled with this new idea! I like the fact that first class air travel and luxury cars are being put an end to as well. Not quite sure what they mean by public funds though? Doubtless they will have catering and they will have alcohol – so where will that money come from? Government exists on public funds.

Branding guru and wine lover Jeremy Sampson:
How sad that Cabinet Ministers, Ministers etc, all public servants, cannot be trusted with the public’s (our) money. I applaud Mr Gordhan, wonder how it will be implemented, and look forward to people being held publicly accountable. The suggestion that this will save millions if not billions is mind boggling and the fact that people will have gotton away with it is criminal. As to alcohol, most leaders of countries have a State Wine Cellar to use when visiting dignitaries are in town. That¹s important. As to the rest of it, like all of us, pay your own way. And buy South African.

Hotel Executive Graham Wood:
Any austerity measures proposed that seek to minimize wasteful expenditure should be welcomed! Compliance to directives will always be the challenge!

Chris Gilmour from Absa Investments:
I think Pravin Gordhan’s comments on alcohol should not be seen in isolation; rather they should be seen in the overall context of a new cost-conscious regime that is about to come into operation at government. This includes the scrapping of government credit cards, curbs on premium air travel and a limit that can be spent on cars etc. It is sending out a clear and unequivocal message to cabinet, regional and municipal politicians as well as the general public that the intention to spend taxpayers’ money wisely is sincere. Gordhan has always led from the front – he walks the talk and has an appeal that transcends the political divide. This message will further endear him (and government) to a broad range of ordinary citizens.

Our experts have come up with a range of useful views. While I applaud the crusade against waste, I just hope that the Cape wine industry is not a big looser in all of this. Get rid of the gravy, but please don’t throw out the wine as well.

Tweets of the Day:

Puns (@omgthatspunny): When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U C L A.
Chris Hart (@chrishartZA): Employed people have more dignity, better health, are able to keep their children in education for longer.

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