[Letter] LETTER: Time to cut import tariffs

Consumer inflation registered a 7.1% year-on-year rise for March
2023, the second successive monthly increase. Across the board South Africans are being forced to deal with higher food and fuel costs, along with the added pressure point of higher interest rates and consequently larger credit repayments.

With the country ever more reliant on imports (from components to more complex, manufactured goods), the potential for yet higher inflation and prices remains strong. One way for the government to alleviate some pressure on consumers would be to lower import tariffs on various goods and foodstuffs.

That even the state has opted for more affordable imports points to the economic benefits that could follow from lowering tariffs in certain sectors and for certain products (“State snubs SA vaccine maker Biovac with switch to imports”, April 19). With the department of health opting for imports of vaccines that protect against pneumococcal diseases, instead of purchasing from the state-backed manufacturer Biovac, the case for affordability becomes all the stronger.

SA could pursue state support for certain industries or goods on a carefully considered and precise basis, with sunset clauses and the like. But in the current climate of low growth, and factors such as persistent load-shedding and dilapidated, unreliable trade infrastructure that exponentially increase the costs of local manufacturing and business, it is both immoral and impractical to prevent citizens’ access to more affordable goods, components and materials through maintaining high tariffs.

Letter originally published here.

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