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DA: Statement by Dion George, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Finance, on COSATU and the National Health Insurance (14/09/2009)

14th September 2009

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Cosatu's recent statement, with regard to the NHI, that "we must fight for more money from Treasury to support ANC priorities" is indicative of the trade union's poor understanding of basic economics, and its vitriol accomplishes little more than dumbing-down any debate to a shouting match. More importantly, it is also wrongheaded and reveals a startling lack of understanding with regards to principles such as treasury oversight and budgeting for the benefit of the entire country. The Treasury is not saying the NHI costs too much (although the DA believes it certainly will). It has not even seen the Department of Health's proposal yet, so how could it express such an opinion to that effect? What Cosatu is trying to do is pre-empt the cost and bully the Treasury into complying the proposal regardless of its implications. This is the thuggish nature of Cosatu: its idea of a debate or constructive criticism is to invoke a false sense of injustice and then shout everyone down with misplaced moral indignation. Having a debate with Cosatu is like trying to talk at a music concert: pointless. But it not just Cosatu's attitude that is undemocratic, there is little substance to what it says either. True, it is disturbing that the Treasury has not yet seen a plan for the NHI (an indictment of the Department of Health) but only a person with their head in the sand would not be able to tell that the NHI scheme proposed by the government is going to have monumental financial implications for the state, and the Treasury has every right to intimate as much. In this regard the Treasury is quite right to flag its financial implications as significant, the DA has been doing so for months. The Treasury needs to carefully consider whatever proposal the Department of Health puts forward and if it has detrimental implications for the budget and budget planning, it needs to intervene. Cosatu, on the other hand, needs to take a lesson in basic economics and, if it really is interested in what is best for all South Africans, fundamentally reconsider its position on the National Health Insurance Scheme.

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