Today, in a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance, the National Treasury revealed that it projects between 3 and 7 million job losses as a result of a protracted lockdown. This is a staggering prediction, far worse than anyone previously thought. It is becoming increasingly likely that the human, social and economic cost of this protracted lockdown will be far worse than previously considered, and will be more severe than the consequences of lockdowns in the developed world.
This underscores how important it is to open up more of the economy safely, as the DA has proposed. We have proposed a model in which businesses which can operate safely be allowed to open immediately, with strict social distancing and personal protection requirements.
We call on National Treasury to support our call to open more of the economy safely, to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe of between 3 and 7 million job losses. No leader or policymaker in South Africa can possibly be comfortable with such a high human cost to the lockdown. To do so would be deeply irresponsible. We must act now to avert these job losses.
The core problem is that lockdown “Stage 4” is insufficiently different from total lockdown, and keeps too much of the economy shuttered, without any health basis for doing so. The only changes in “Stage 4 are piecemeal and marginal, and in some cases are more restrictive. This is because the government’s model is a blunt instrument that picks winning and losing industries, without any apparent justification in transparent and available health data.
Instead, we propose a model where industries themselves would determine what needs to be done to safely protect workers and customers, and any business that can comply with those requirements would be permitted to open.