One of the most nerve-wracking days of the year is almost upon us – no, not Valentine’s. The 21st of February, which is when current Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will deliver his first budget speech to the people of South Africa.
We have a great country here, but budgets speeches bring out the most fearful side of us. This year, plenty of people have plenty to worry about. And among the things most dreaded is a fuel levy hike, caused by increases to the Road Accident Fund levy. This could push fuel up by as much as 29c per litre, according to the AA.
Now, remember, this is primarily not about you or me. A petrol hike is worst for the lowest paid among us that keep our country going – like domestic workers, municipal servants, labourers and nannies.
Let’s say it took you five litres of fuel to get to work every week. It cost you R14,20 per litre in January, now it’s going to cost you R14,49. That means instead of spending R71 getting to work every week, you’re spending R72,45. While this is annoying and certainly does add up at the end of a month or year, it’s usually not ruinous. Most people with their own cars will still be able to afford getting to work, or university, or the bar. But for those who are less mobile and fortunate, it’s another story.
What most people don’t understand is that a fuel hike is easiest for the richest and worst for the poorest. Let’s take a look at someone getting to work every day, same as the one above, only they have to go by taxi. A taxi driver is far heavier on fuel than even the most mobile of corporate jobs usually, and his fuel increase is going to be a lot more serious. Where will he make up for that extra cost to doing business? The same ride that cost them R10 in January is now going to cost R11,50, let’s say. Now, that’s a R7,50 increase Instead of merely a R2,45 one. And for a lot of people that’s the price of maize for a week, maybe a loaf of bread. They are usually getting an increase in their working wages, so it could be coming out of their money to feed their family.
This is why we need to get transport and mobility sorted in South Africa – it’s not about getting the hipster UCT student to the farmer’s market easier. It’s about welfare for all. Raise up the poor, and you raise up the nation.
So what do we do?
If petrol prices are going to increase, how on earth do we make mobility cheaper? Well, luckily for us, we’re living in the 21st century. Electric cars, for example, are continuing to be sold in SA more and more, with Lightstone declaring “uptake on electric vehicles is slow but steady”.
Let’s also not forget that automobile giants could bring new solutions to SA, like Volkswagen. Volkswagen is currently pioneering its new ‘integrated mobility concept’ with new car sharing innovations and others planned. And it’s happening in Rwanda, not here, because Rwanda has “political stability and zero tolerance for corruption”. Okay, we deserved that one, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get rolled out in South Africa afterwards. Scandia, too, are pioneering innovative and carbon-friendly fleet trucks – important if there will also be a carbon tax imposed in the budget speech like some think it will.
Meanwhile, here in Cape Town there is a Transport forum to be held on 7 March. So, things are happening. The question is, are we going to move with it?
Remember – success comes not with a certain budget speech or global economic outlook. It comes from improving the way you think. And that improves the way you move.