By John Fraser
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has dangled the prospect of debt-strangled SAA being allowed to collapse.
He was speaking to journalists, Wednesday, just before delivering his mini-budget address.
When asked about parastatals, which continue to receive billions of rand in bailouts, he said there should be no sacred cows in seeking solutions.
He said state companies such as Sanral should approach the markets for their funding.
And on SAA, he suggested that closure should be an option.
He gave the example of Swissair – which was in trouble, was “closed down”, and this paved the way for the launch of another Swiss airline.
“We need to be open minded,” he said. “You need to progress in your thinking to the wi-fi generation. Otherwise you are stuck in the 60s.”
Mboweni also supported belt tightening in government, and when asked about a cut in the number of departments, he suggested 20-25 ministries would be better than the current line-up – with around 70 ministers and deputies.
“There is no economic, financial or political reason to have an executive of up to 70,” he said. “But this is the President’s problem.”
He also appeared lukewarm on the NHI – suggesting that the existing infrastructure is excellent, but state health provision may need private sector expertise to reach its potential.
He said he prefers the concept of development to that of service delivery – where people wait for help.
He emphasised that red tape must not delay action. He gave the example of Vaal pollution and said that the Military has been called in to help. In his budget speech he spoke of the military supplying “engineering and other expertise”
Meanwhile he described the Giyani water project as a “cesspit of corruption”, with spending exploding.
He appeared to have been unmoved by calls to introduce zero VAT on chicken, but he did approve Zero VAT rating on sanitary pads, bread flour and cake flour.
The mini-budget was a maiden appearance for the new Finance Minister, and he appeared cheerful, relaxed and gave an impressive performance.
He said he is using his honeymoon period to say some things which equate with his most recent experience in the private sector, but which may not be in line with current government thinking.