Government’s “new” Economic Reconstruction & Recovery Plan is nothing but a wishlist.
There were high expectations leading up to the announcement amongst politicians, economists, business leaders and the public but the economic recovery plan was thin on the how and left much to be still clarified. Much of what the President said had already been said in previous Presidential announcements. We are therefore doubtful that the “plan” will be successful unless the President’s house is in order.
Our aim was to consider the Government’s economic recovery plan and thereafter compare it with alternative recovery plans as offered by Stellenbosch University under the Social Justice MPlan chaired by Professor Thuli Madonsela & that of Mmusi Maimane’s ONE RSA Movement. It was a total disappointment to realise that the Government’s so-called recovery plan is nothing short of words bashed onto a document during the last minutes before a presentation and hence, an injustice to compare the Government’s one with those plans where people have put in an effort, thought and applied their mind in putting it together. Needless to say, Government can never achieve any of its “wish lists” if the governance status quo remained. That is if the President’s house is not in order.
Firstly, let us zoom into the vague and embarrassing supposed plan and outline the most minor but of extreme importance detail that everyone might have overlooked. The supposed plan is a collection of words which ultimately means nothing hence, safer for the Government because there is no consensus on what exactly is meant and that is why a failed implementation will not give rise to any serious liability. The “plan” makes use of phrases such as “gender equality and economic inclusion of women and youth”, what does that mean exactly? Where are you going to include them? How? When? Are we supposed figure this out ourselves? What about “mass public intervention”? What does that entail? A supposed plan was compiled in an American dialect and (all) relevant presidential staff failed in their duties to identify this minut detail. A significant amount of money was spent in compiling this plan. A wasted spending, which could have been avoided had qualified candidates occupied these strategic governmental positions. How many more similar gross negligent decisions occurred and will continue? If failing to execute such a simple task, what more in respect of complex decisions? It is evident that this lack of skill, competency, care and diligence is costing the Government billions of wasted Rands which could have been utilised elsewhere. it is worrisome that the President was advised to address the Nation which such a reprehensible formulated document, which is unintelligible. It is important to appreciate that within South Africa, we have academics and intellectuals therefore, when civil servants give addresses, a thought must be put into it. It is somewhat insulting to be fed “the same old story”. It is on these basis that we say the President has unacceptably misrepresented us to the outside world. We need qualified candidates to be in government and to assist the President in planning, developing and implementing policies because as it stands currently, there is no plan but a wishlist. The time is now, to radically transform government departments so that the grand plans of the Constitution can be accelerated.
Much has been made about the radical idea to boost the manufacturing industry and encourage the consumption of locally produced goods. The plan aims to encourage investment in manufacturing from both local and foreign investors. There is however no mention of how that investment will be regulated, especially for foreign investors. It is imperative that we control how investment is made in our own country if we are to improve the lives our people. It is for this reason that South Africa needs to legislate foreign investment in these key sectors earmarked for improvement, to the effect that foreign investors be compelled to partner with South Africans on a 50/50 basis when investing in our country. This model has been used with much success by countries such as South Korea to ensure that their people benefit from the growth proposed. It would be of no use to us to drive investment and not have our people share in equity as we would not be able to benefit from the success of the investment and economic activity.
In a country where unemployment sits at 23,3% (not including those who have stopped looking for employment for various reasons) with 17 million citizens benefiting from state grant and 5 million of those actually needing the grant to stay above the poverty line, a competent state with corrupt-free governance is actually non negotiable. The President’s inconsistent & unrealized promises to create job ‘opportunities’ i.e 412 000 jobs at the Investment conference in 2019, 275 000 at the Job Summit in 2018 & now 800000 in 2020 is disheartening and speaks to our point of a house not in order, leading to non-implementation.
The economic recovery plan aims for a growth rate of 5.4%. One can see this as highly ambitious or as wishful thinking because when looking back at other plans proposed by government the targets were never reached. South Africa has underperformed its own projections and has had to revise its projections downwards on countless occasions due to poor implementation of these plans and government’s own failure to seriously address the problems we face as a nation. As a result of this, we have seen South Africa lose its place as the leading economy in Africa.
Part of the plan is to implement reforms to promote economic activity and stimulate growth. The issue with this however has been the pace at which the reforms are implemented. The president campaigned on implementing reforms to stimulate growth and institutions such as the IMF have been calling for reforms in South Africa pre-COVID-19. The sluggish implementation of these promised reforms casts a shadow of doubt over the reforms announced in the economic recovery plan. Our faith in government is waning and the people want action. Will any of these reforms ever be implemented or are they just another talking point? Prove us wrong Mr President.
Neo Mokone (Law), Lethabo Sehlabane (Accounting) and Thembalethu Seyisi (Law) are student leaders at Stellenbosch University.