Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cuban freebie: This is how we could have spent R1 billion

Cuban freebie: This is how we could have spent R1 billion

Kenneth Mubu, Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations and
9 December 2010

The Democratic Alliance (DA) shall be writing to President Zuma today
asking him to explain the motivation to cancel Cuba's debt to South
Africa in light of the massive opportunity costs such a cancellation
represents for the people of South Africa. The true cost of President
Zuma's largesse adds up to much more than just the R1.4 billion the
South African state will lose in the process. What President Zuma needs
to explain is how the interests of either the South African people or
the Cuban people are served by his action.

In the first case, the Zuma administration has foregone a large sum of
money that could have been used for social upliftment for our own
citizens, many of whom continue to live in poverty. Indeed, the Zuma
administration should have made it clear that Cuba repay the outstanding
debts, totalling R1.1 billion. This money could have been used for
desperately needed service delivery in South Africa. R1.1 billion could
have been utilized to:

• Build 19 000 new RDP homes;
• Connect 140 000 low cost homes to the electricity grid; or
• Provide 36 000 students with bursaries for a full year of studying
at a top South African university.

In the second case, by bestowing this gift without attaching any
conditions, President Zuma has lost the opportunity to project influence
into that region. While the region may not be one of our strategic
priorities, President Zuma could nevertheless have given it an impetus
to reform and achieved the general good of encouraging democracy
worldwide. We pride ourselves on our democratic and human rights values
– and we should project these values when we interact with foreign
countries. By providing the Cuban government with such an extensive
financial injection, we are in effect indicating approval and
legitimizing a nepotistic and anti-democratic regime.

Once again, the commitment to democracy, human rights and, closer to
home, service delivery, seem mere platitudes when confronted with the
obligations of old political loyalties and obligations. This investment
in Cuban relations holds little potential returns and presents a lost
opportunity to affect positive change in Cuba. The staggering financial
implications and severe service delivery-related opportunity costs also
seem to suggest that this was not a wise decision. The reality is that
President Zuma had to choose between 19 000 new RDP homes for South
Africans or to throw political support behind an anti-democratic Cuban
regime. He chose the latter and needs to explain why.

No comments:

Post a Comment