Emigration hastens skills, tax drain

Published Oct 1, 2022


Everybody knows that the boat is leaking

Everybody knows that the captain lied

Everybody got this broken feeling

Like their father or their dog just died

So sings Leonard Cohen on Everybody Knows.

Here in South Africa, many have realised that Captain Cyril Ramaphosa ‒ and the captains before him ‒ have lied about the state of the ship we call South Africa. Corruption has gored huge chunks out of the hull, and there is no power to work the pumps.

Many passengers have taken to the lifeboats, striking out for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, more recently, Panama and Portugal.

And who can blame them?

With health, public security and education all in decline, the cost of living in steep incline and near daily revelations of the rampant looting which has laid the galley bare, the passengers are seeking ships which offer stability and, more importantly, hope ‒ hope for themselves and their children of a better future.

The problem is that many of those emigrating are taking away valuable skills, sorely needed in a country which just cannot replace them at the rate at which they are leaving.

Their departure also decreases the increasingly small pool of people on whom the government relies for 38% (9.7% of GDP) of its tax revenues, collected from personal income tax.

So desperate are people to leave that they will abandon three medical practices here to work two jobs to survive in another country.

Of course some people are migrating here, drawn by our wide open spaces, abundant wildlife and, critically, an extremely favourable exchange rate for those with pounds, Euros and dollars.

But these are often retired folk, who are not looking to establish businesses and create jobs here.

Instead, they are settling in places like Hermanus, Cape Town and Plettenberg, pushing up property prices and further widening the gap between rich and poor.

The captain and crew need to be replaced before they take the ship down, with the 2024 elections providing the perfect opportunity.

Anything less and, as Cohen lamented,

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes.

Everybody knows.

The Independent on Saturday