Rubber stamping NHI Bill will damage SA and present material risk for economy, says business

Busa says there is no money to fund the NHI Bill, which would require taxes to be raised to unsustainable levels. File

Busa says there is no money to fund the NHI Bill, which would require taxes to be raised to unsustainable levels. File

Published Nov 28, 2023


Rubber stamping the NHI Bill would have damaging consequences for South Africa for generations and present a material risk to the economy, the business sector said yesterday as 25 000 doctors also voiced their concern.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and B4SA called on the NCOP and Deputy President to defer the Bill for NCOP to properly consider concerns raised by the provinces and many stakeholders.

Busa and B4SA said, “No consideration was given by the select committee to the many constitutional issues, both procedural and substantive, in the Bill, which were raised by four provinces and a wide range of stakeholders.

“This amounts to a serious and significant procedural lapse and a violation and disregard of Parliament’s own public participation model, fundamentally undermining the principles of participatory democracy on which our Constitution is based,” they said.

Cas Coovadia, the CEO of Busa, said: “For the National Assembly and the NCOP to disregard proposed amendments that will have a beneficial and tangible impact on citizens, or indeed would prevent harm to citizens, in the interest of rushing the Bill through Parliament, is unconstitutional. It makes a mockery of due process and portrays the NCOP as nothing more than a rubber stamp.

“Our belief is that the Bill in its current form is utterly unimplementable, and will have severe consequences for South Africa, the economy and every citizen, for generations to come.”

The organisation noted that there was no money to fund the NHI Bill, which would require taxes to be raised to unsustainable levels.

“This is unaffordable, unsustainable and presents a material risk to the economy,” said Coovadia.

Martin Kingston, B4SA Steering Committee Chair, said: “The government’s mandate is to act in the best interests of all of its citizens. It is totally irresponsible to rubber stamp into law legislation that will have such a severe impact on the country and her people, ignoring the legitimate and substantive inputs that have been made by multiple stakeholders to date."

He said the approach had created substantial and widespread uncertainty, which was already impacting investment into the sector, and more broadly for the country.

“By amending Section 33 and clarifying a number of other critical aspects of the NHI Bill, introducing low-cost medical options, and reducing the cost of private care, the country can build a better overall healthcare system with immediate benefit for all.

“This will attract more capital and investment into the healthcare sector without the government needing to raise taxes to unsustainable levels or take on additional debt, while retaining the country’s precious healthcare workforce,” he said.

Meanwhile, the South African Health Professionals Collaboration (Sahpc), a newly formed national group of nine medical and allied healthcare practitioners’ associations, representing 25 000 doctors, said in a statement yesterday the NCOP Committee had failed to adequately consult, or consider submissions made by numerous clinician bodies, whose primary objective was to safeguard the future of healthcare in the country.

Simon Strachan, a spokesperson for the Sahpc said: "We are concerned that the Bill’s hasty progression through the legislative process, without taking into account the diverse perspectives and expert insights delivered through numerous prior expert submissions, is a lost opportunity to put the country on a pathway to quality healthcare for all.”

The Sahpc said the final product of the NHI Bill needed to be workable, affordable and improve the quality and sustainability of available care.

“We do not believe that the Bill, in its current format, achieves this,” it said.