Botswana leads the way

Business Day - - OPINION - Martin van Staden Le­gal re­searcher, Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion

Botswana, not SA, should be seen as the shin­ing ex­am­ple for other African states to fol­low. It is not only the most po­lit­i­cally re­spon­si­ble African state, hav­ing con­demned and op­posed the pro­posed mass with­drawal from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, but it is also the most eco­nom­i­cally re­spon­si­ble African state.

Busi­ness Day re­ported that Air Botswana, the national air­line, is go­ing to be freed of state man­age­ment, which is some­thing the South African govern­ment should have done decades ago with that leech on the tax­payer, SAA (State air­line to be pri­va­tised, Fe­bru­ary 14).

Air Botswana, like SAA, has not been do­ing well, along with other state-owned en­ter­prises, but un­like the Botswanan govern­ment, our govern­ment is dead-set on keep­ing its air­line, whether as a flimsy in­di­ca­tor of national pres­tige or an­other way of lin­ing some pock­ets.

The ar­gu­ment is of­ten made by politi­cians that a national air­line is needed for the poor not to be ex­cluded from air travel, but clearly this has largely been de­cep­tive.

SAA’s prices are more or less com­pa­ra­ble to its pri­vate com­peti­tors, and thus the poor in any case do not fly nearly as of­ten as those more well-to-do. The prin­ci­pal dif­fer­ence be­tween SAA and pri­vate air­lines is that whereas pri­vate air­lines need to con­sider all fac­tors in the de­ci­sions they make so as to avoid losses and po­ten­tial bank­ruptcy, SAA can rely on the seem­ingly never-end­ing stream of tax­payer funds.

It is self-ev­i­dent that pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies out­per­form their state-owned coun­ter­parts in ev­ery way, in­clud­ing on price.

Un­for­tu­nately, with the govern­ment’s plans for National Health In­sur­ance and a po­ten­tial telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion mo­nop­oly, it seems eco­nomic aware­ness or un­der­stand­ing is lost on our politi­cians.

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