Its Annual Budget time – Tobacco, Tax and the Black Market

Cigarettes+XXX+smokingThe nation awaits the 2015 Budget Speech with trepidation to know if income taxes will rise. But there is unanimous certainty there will, as per usual, be an increase in ‘Specific Excise Duties’. The only question is by how much? Taxation of cigarettes and tobacco products appears to be the path of least resistance for tax-collectors. It receives little backlash from the wider public (unlike e-tolls) and even support in some quarters.

The imposition of the so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes and liquor products, in addition to generating significant fiscal revenues, does serve an economic purpose. Unlike normal goods and “necessity” products, cigarettes are not an essential good which people need to survive. As far back as the 1700s, Adam Smith averred “Sugar, rum, and tobacco, are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life … are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.” Again, the notion of the importance of tobacco to the fiscal basket is exemplified in utmost simplicity and honesty – if a politician, or an emperor in this case can be believed –

This vice brings in one hundred million francs in taxes every year. I will certainly forbid it at once – as soon as you can name a virtue that brings in as much revenue [Napoleon III (1800s) – reply when asked to ban smoking]

Despite all the furore over public health and governments efforts to decrease the demand for cigarettes, South Africa is no different to other nations – annual tobacco revenues to the state coffers amounts to around R10 Billion! Another round of sin tax increases in the upcoming budget appears inevitable, and these increases are spawning a range of unintended (but not unexpected) consequences – the illicit trade. Source: Polity.org / DNA Economics.

Pravin Gordhan named Finance Minister of the Year

Pravin Gordhan - Finance Minister of the Year 2013 (Mail & Guardian)

Pravin Gordhan – Finance Minister of the Year 2013 (Mail & Guardian)

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (former chairperson of the World Customs Organisation) has been named the Finance Minister of the Year for 2013 in sub-Saharan Africa by the Emerging Markets website, the finance ministry said on Sunday.

The website’s citation stated that Gordhan, appointed in 2009 at the height of the economic crisis, had been praised by analysts, the ministry said in a statement.

This was because South Africa especially was more exposed than other emerging markets to dangers stemming from the eventual pullback of quantitative easing by the US’s Federal Reserve.

Emerging Markets provides news, analysis and commentary on economic policy, international economics and global financial markets, with a special focus on emerging markets.

In his acceptance speech in Washington DC, where he has been attending the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Gordhan thanked Emerging Markets for its recognition of South Africa and its economic team.

‘We are terrible managers’
“Minister Gordhan was critical of the sudden change in the narrative about emerging markets, which up until the second quarter of this year were praised for managing their economies very well,” the ministry said.

“[Emerging markets contributed] more than 50% to global economic growth and for lifting large numbers of people above the poverty line.”

Gordhan said: “Three months later, we are apparently fragile and we are terrible managers of our economies. We the emerging markets are here to stay.

“We live in an interconnected world, and more importantly, we live in an interdependent world. There is no decoupling from you, the advanced economies, and there is no decoupling from us, the emerging markets.” Source: Mail & Guardian/Sapa