The National Treasury is considering tax increases to fund the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in South Africa, Business Day reported on Sunday.
The publication quoted National Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane who said other options under consideration include widening the budget deficit and reprioritising government spending.
Vaccines as ‘public good’
Mogajane reportedly said COVID-19 vaccines are a “public good” and the government was therefore committed to funding their rollout.
This funding will happen with or without the participation of the private sector and medical schemes because the pandemic is an emergency, he added.
“South Africa will not take us seriously if I can find money for South African Airways but not for vaccines,” Mogajane reportedly said.
The government could also use provisions in section 16 of the Public Finance Management Act to make funds available, through Parliament, outside the budget process.
South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy
The government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout “will be the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country’s history,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in is address to the nation last week.
“We are in the process of procuring vaccines through three channels: through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers,” he added.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has secured 20 million doses so far which will be delivered “mainly in the first half of the year.”
Priority will be given to healthcare workers followed by essential workers (such as teachers and police), the elderly and people with co-morbidities, and the remaining population.
The government has indicated that South Africa will reach “herd immunity” once 67 percent of its population has been vaccinated. This translates to 40 million South Africans.
The Department of Health estimates that the vaccine rollout will cost R20 billion.