Monday, February 16, 2009

"Grant" is a Bad Word

My involvement with the Department of Health has exposed me to many of the shenanigans that circulate through the social welfare circles. The current problem I'm dealing with involves the forgery of documents that show HIV test results. But get this: the perpetrators are trying to prove that they're HIV positive so they can get the grant.

My understanding has always been that a grant is meant to serve as a "compensation", but here it clearly works as an "incentive". I was aware of the same problem in Britain, another showcase for handouts. In Scotland, young single women were deliberatly getting pregnant so they could get the single mother grant. The outcome is very much opposite to the intent. I don't doubt the department's good intentions, but they seem to misunderstand human nature.

The Basic Income Grant (BIG) is a hot topic ahead of the elections. Parties are going around promising free money for everyone, effectively, and no doubt those promises are worth some votes. The ACDP investigated the BIG and found a very sizeable problem: the cost of administration was the same as the grant itself. Not only that, but the system is open to huge amounts of fraud. In the end the BIG comes back full circle to where it started, because it requires additional tax income (by "creative" means, as the ANC puts it), so the citizens are simply getting back what they paid in, and forking out for a whole lot of lousy administration in-between.

Grants are nothing more than a plaster. The economy is in trouble, and while most of the other parties go around promising more band-aids, the ACDP is promising to target the source of the problem itself: a bleeding economy. The ANC Minister of Labour spoke on SABC's Interface about sticking with "tried and tested" formulas used by the current government. It's a pity he stopped in the middle of his sentence - he meant to say "tried, tested and failed". History and research show undeniably that socialist and communist economic policies kill off economies, while the ACDP promises the "tried, tested and successful" principles of free market economy, with deregulation, less bureaucracy and smaller government.

I don't doubt that some level of social welfare through grants is necessary, but I argue firstly that the size of grants on offer is counter-productive, and secondly, that you can administer grants in more effective ways. Basically, social welfare works far more effectively when you adopt the mindset of "incentive" rather than "compensation", as I alluded to earlier. In this regard, work-for-food schemes, small business incentives and tax breaks for labour-intensive industry spend less on outflow and gain more in inflow. The object of social welfare is to move its recipient towards self dependency, and I'm sure you share my position that cash handouts fail to do that for the most part. In simple terms, the fear of not having enough to live on drives you to find a job, while earning a grant you can live on creates a crowd of unproductive dependents.

In the end, grants are a form of financial enslavement of the people to a bloated, centralist bureaucracy, the king of all "big business". While the throngs have so often voted for parties that offer short term thrills and spills, maybe you've done enough homework to realise that the solution to South Africa's economic woes is less government and more democracy.


Paul said...

Right wing Christian theology is unbiblical and harmful to the perception of the Body of Christ.It was interestto see the the church stand in revilement and disgust at Obamas choice to supply Medical care to the poorest millions of Americans that couldnt afford health care. That was disgusting to see. Where is the love. I believe that the real Church of Christ needs to distance ourselves from right wing politics.The perception that all Christians support guys like Bush, Mccain,Netenyahu,Hagee etc. is damaging to the witness of the church. Jesus ,in my view, is not a capitalist right wing and nationalistic politician. We need to reflect the love of Christ to the poor and needy.

Eric Savage said...

You're spot on in emphasizing that the love of the church towards the needy must be our prime drive. In addition, one of the dangers of a conservative view is that it will push an agenda like "it's better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish", but they end up doing neither. As such, a pro-active approach in line with the book of James is the evidence of the faith we have.

Having said that, we need to remember we're operating in a fallen world. The Bible severely warns a man who doesn't provide for his family, and yet we're cutting straight across that advice and giving him an escape - why? In my view, the Bible gives us no evidence that the curse has been lifted regarding our need to toil for food. Welfare practices in countries like the UK give clear evidence that when you give somebody enough to survive without having to work, you eliminate their incentive to work. You may be concerned about the fear of starvation, but that fear is what God put in place to drive people to carry their share of society and to contribute productively. We nickname it the Protestant work ethic, and it's the drive behind nearly all successful economies, Christian or not.

The bigger question is: what structures have we put in place to ensure that when somebody is ready to work, the economy is creating productive jobs for them? And I use "productive" deliberately, because so many government-created jobs are unproductive. And if somebody doesn't want to work, why should our taxes be carrying them? In the same way that the Bible commands us to expel the immoral brother from church, there is a line that we as a society have to draw, otherwise you will find the productive fabric of society eroding. If you're allowing that erosion to filter through, how can you say you love the nation?

If you're talking about the perception of the body of Christ, don't forget the Jesus who repeatedly reminds us of the penalty of hell. Love is the greatest of all, but it does come attached with consequences for disobedience.

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: