Imbalance between credit providers, consumers

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Has anyone seen a credit agreement in a language other than English or Afrikaans? During the past 12 months the portfolio committee on trade and industry has heard much about the importance of credit to an economy and the significance of credit to the millions of South Africans who have come to expect a reasonably reliable access to some form of borrowed money.

The committee has also heard much about the complexity of credit granting and the need to ensure that lenders are not stymied by too much legislation aimed at protecting consumers at any cost.

But how is it possible to argue that the ANC government is overly concerned with protecting consumers when the most vulnerable of them have probably never been given access to a credit agreement in their own language?

It is difficult to strike the proper balance between the rights of credit providers and the rights of consumers. Finding that balance is as difficult as it is important to the sustainable growth of any economy. Too much concern for the rights of credit providers inevitably means that consumers pay a hefty price; too much concern for the rights of consumers and credit providers will go out of business.

The portfolio committee on trade and industry is struggling with that balance right now; it is struggling at a time when it has become evident that millions of lives have been adversely affected by injudicious borrowing. It is also a time when the ANC is under pressure to deliver whatever it can to the electorate.

For this reason there is a considerable danger that whatever emanates from the current legislative process will be “sold” to the electorate as some sort of release from existing onerous credit agreements. That false “sale” could do much damage to the economy.

Health

The Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, is not letting any criticism faze him. Yesterday he bluntly pointed out that people who were still criticising the National Health Insurance (NHI) were wasting their time.

He has moved on with NHI, watching its phased implementation. He is moving ahead to implement other programmes.

At the post State of the Nation address briefing for the social cluster in Cape Town, Motsoaledi announced that a new kind of contraceptive, an under the skin implant, would be launched next month. There has never been any implant contraceptive in South Africa. The implant is replaceable after three years.While it cost approximately R1 700 in the private sector, Motsoaledi said it would be available free in the public hospitals.

About 550 000 Grade 4 female pupils will receive the human papilloma virus vaccine across the country next month. It will be routine for them to receive this annually to prevent them from getting cervical cancer later in their lives.

Another new programme designated for this year will be the screening of all prison inmates and their families for the tuberculosis (TB) virus.

Mineworkers and communities living around mines will also be a part of the Department of Health’s unprecedented screening exercise for TB using the new automated diagnostic test, GeneXpert.

GeneXpert has been around for only three years and out of the 4.2 million global tests conducted using it, Motsoaledi said half of them had been done in South Africa.

Because a large number of miners come from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique, the minister has reached an agreement to work with other ministers in the Southern African Development Community.

The conference that is planned to take place this year will bring together all ministers of health, labour, mining and finance with an aim to suggest a common treatment protocol, common database, common referral patterns and cross-border clinics for TB patients. page 18

Tourism

A few years ago, it was suggested that the Cape Town International Convention Centre, since it is situated in the country’s main tourism destination, should take over South African Tourism’s annual indaba from the Durban International Convention Centre, which has hosted it since its inception 34 years ago.

The takeover attempt failed but this year, with Africa’s increasing prosperity continuing to attract a growing number of business travellers, and signs that the sub-Saharan African countries north of South Africa are now beginning to be of interest to tourists as well, this country will have two major travel exhibitions.

The first will be in Cape Town. Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of the annual travel market in London that is attended by companies and government ministers from all over the world, is organising an Africa Travel Week at the end of April and beginning of May with three separate exhibitions aimed at different segments of the industry.

It will be followed by the indaba in Durban in which more countries outside the Southern African Development Community will be taking part for the first time.

With less than a week between the two events, some companies in the hospitality industry are having a problem deciding whether to go to the trouble and expense of taking part equally in both shows, or to have more exposure at one than the other.

Those planning to have equal representation include the City Lodge group and the Hilton International hotel group, while another South African-based hotel group says it will have only a small stand in Cape Town with its main presence, as usual, in Durban.

Whichever those and others in the industry decide, it seems certain that with so much global exposure we can look forward to another highly successful tourism year.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ann Crotty, Londiwe Buthelezi and Audrey D’Angelo.


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