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SA must halt its economic apathy

From 2004 to 2007 a GDP that grew over 5% became the new normal. Now we accept that it has ‘only’ fallen by 7%.
Image: Supplied

Not too long ago the South African economy was growing at over 5% a year. From 2004 to 2007 it became the new normal, with GDP regularly reported around that rate. Any dip below it was considered a national failure.

It is interesting how our perceptions of what is acceptable have changed. When figures for 2020 GDP were announced last week at ‘only’ a fall of 7%, there was relief in some quarters. Indeed, the figures did show a stronger than expected fourth quarter last year, leaving the overall figure better than most forecasts. But we must be clear about this: the figure remains a disaster for the economy and very far from what we should consider “normal”.

Insights into how SA is doing right now
Reflecting on the economy’s 7% contraction

Of course, we can debate about potential growth and how figures should be seen in a global context, much of which is outside our control. But we must also resist the pull of gravity towards seeing mediocre and poor performances as acceptable. We must be shocked by such outcomes and use them to redouble our efforts to get the economy growing vigorously.

The shift in perception on what is acceptable has been happening over the past decade, during which growth has gradually been drifting downward. We have barely managed to exceed 1% since 2015, meaning that in per capita terms the economy has been shrinking.

In the face of these outcomes, organised business and others have been calling for structural reforms to fix the potential of the economy to grow. But those calls were increasingly met not with the urgency and shock that the predicament called for, but with a kind of resignation. Particularly under the previous president, there was frustration and loss of hope about our ability to change the trajectory.

Fundamentally we are in a different position now. We can change the trajectory – we have a leadership that is committed to doing so. But we must be careful that the habits formed in a low-growth environment don’t constrain our energy and views on what we should deliver. We must get back to our previous peak growth rates if we are to sustainably change the fortunes of all South Africans. That must be our goal and we should not rest until we achieve that.

There are moves in the right direction. Operation Vulindlela is making strides in supporting government departments to implement already agreed policies in areas that can make a big difference. The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan agreed by social partners as the way to overcome the pandemic sets out a clear path to fix the business environment to enable greater growth. The efforts at boosting infrastructure investment can also add positive momentum. These are the kinds of initiatives we should all be rallying around, across business and the public sector, as well as other social partners.

But there are also steps backwards. Last week another court decision delayed the auction of spectrum by Icasa. The auction is one of those key structural reforms the economy needs, opening up the airwaves for data services by network providers. It needs to dovetail the migration of analogue TV signals to digital, but that sequencing has not been reliably delivered and the courts are highlighting deficiencies in Icasa’s process.

This is just not acceptable. Icasa must reach out for support to get the process fixed up. It is an independent regulator, and that independence is important, but it must ultimately serve the public interest, which is getting the auction done. Citizens need to be able to trust their regulators to act in their best interests.

Energy remains another front where it is hard to see tangible progress consistently being delivered. We are waiting for the results of the “urgent” round of bids that were delivered to the IPP Office in mid-December as part of the expedited energy procurement round. In the first round of the IPP programme, winners were announced only a month after bid submissions, so it is not clear why we are still waiting in a round that is officially “urgent”. We are also meant to be getting the request for proposals for round 5 of the programme. Why has that not gone out?

Such delays hold up the economy. A return to the growth rates we should be able to expect is deferred. Is our tolerance for these kinds of delays because we have become resigned to poor economic outcomes? As business, we are committed to providing the support necessary to change the outlook. Let us work together to fix the economy with the urgency that South Africans deserve.

Business Leadership South Africa, at its council meeting on March 4, was presented with an action plan for the country’s infrastructure drive followed by a presentation from the Presidency on Operation Vulindlela (OV) – its aims, how it works and progress made so far. The team from the Operation Vulindlela in the Presidency told council members that the President is serious about driving the reform agenda and that he will intervene where there are challenges and obstacles. Read our report on the engagement here.

We need to work together to accelerate vaccination rollout and ensure its success, I wrote in Business Report. The rollout poses the greatest risk to the improved sentiment towards the country, which is stemming from growth of 6.3% in the fourth quarter of last year and rising commodity prices. This is an important project: let’s get it done efficiently.

To ensure that government delivers on its goal to unlock long-term and sustainable growth, it must make sure that its ministers and other senior leaders are held accountable, I wrote in Business Report. In the past 17 years, 60% of the 400 applications to have mineral rights transferred have not been granted and there are an astonishing 238 applications awaiting ministerial approval. The surest way to overcome the challenge of execution is for us to hold ministers and senior public servants to account.

Busi Mavuso is CEO of Business Leadership South Africa


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Please — the outrage !!!
We are successfully being transformed as promised by the ANC decades ago !!


As long as people vote for “buddies” and not competence, we will keep talking about the same things over and over.
If you look at the world ranking, South Africa is slipping very fast into a crisis. To be honest, there has been nothing else but excuses from all the ANC government for around 12years now, and still no action that can arrest the downward spiral.
Corruption, murder and more crime, increase under every “ANC leader” with even more silly regulations to bind business. Why are the businesses moving out, closing down?

Do you really believe our children and their children will have a future in the country?

As soon as Zuma and his looting robbers came on board, the decline in the GDP has tanked – its a case of the ANC doing its work

The ANC factions act like a pack of wild dogs, fighting each other over the carcass of a warthog. This criminal gang is entirely focussed on narrow self-interests, enabled by the sense of entitlement and ignorance of the ANC voter over the past 27 years.

The central planners in Luthuli House are completely paralysed with inaction due to the conflicting policies of the various factions. These consensus-seeking clowns fail to get consensus between the opposing self-interests and looting opportunities. They decide nothing and implement nothing, while each faction makes its own public statements and promises.

The voters back their factions because they expect to share in the spoils. The nation is embroiled in the aftermath of a 27- long feeding frenzy and now they are fighting over the bare bones. They bite and maul each other through the courts, the media and public statements.

While the wild dogs are fighting, the unemployment hyena is eating the starving wild dog pups in the den. This scene is so typical of Africa.

“The team from the Operation Vulindlela in the Presidency told council members that the President is serious about driving the reform agenda and that he will intervene where there are challenges and obstacles.”

Oh dear… how many more of these do we have to endure? The one thing that must be done but won’t be done is the arrest and conviction the bloated and corrupt ANC clique.

Until that happens, foreign investment will stay away and the looting of the economy will continue.

… and what does “Vulindlela” mean? No definition in this article nor the BLSA link tha I could easily find. Sigh …

But Google is my friend: Yes! The ANC must “make way” … preferably for another political party that understands how to run a country.

There is no SA apathy, unless you view the government as SA. Just read the MW comments and you will clearly see there is no SA apathy. I’m immensely worried and so are a lot of Saffers, which they regularly voice on sites such as these. We can see the cliff approaching at a rapid rate, but our voices are ignored. In every item you listed, the problem-child is clearly the government. It is they who can’t or won’t do what must be done, because of apathy, incompetence, ignorance, criminal mindedness, or ideologic brain-freeze. What must happen is for us to implore government to do nothing. They should just step aside and let those, who can, do. They have been the problem and it won’t help if we ask them to sort out the problem, which they caused, don’t understand and can’t fix.

@Batman, Agreed.

9 years ago a shop stewart who was also an anc card holder and a pastor told me, “You whities jump for aussie way to quickly, us blacks suffered under apartheid and still we stayed here, my friend i will call you one day and tell you when to leave, because if me as african cannot handle the punishment then you must know how bad things are.”

2 years ago i phoned Kevin, he knew it was me and before i could even stay hello he said, “Chief where are you? i want to leave”. is how the conversation started…

”The trouble with socialism is that it would take up too many evenings”

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The best description that Dr Google provided me for the word Culture, was ”behaviour”.

I find this statement in the text diabolical:

”Of course, we can debate about potential growth and how figures should be seen in a global context, much of which is outside our control. But we must also resist the pull of gravity towards seeing mediocre and poor performances as acceptable. We must be shocked by such outcomes and use them to redouble our efforts to get the economy growing vigorously”

We cannot be expected to be compared to any Global Country (except an African one). What can be done by the ”previously advantaged” that’s now totally been written out of all the ”labour right”. It’s a ”now work no pay, no play” situation for hundreds of thousands of ”wanna-bee” entrepreneurs in this country. Even these opportunities and gaps were close out by the ANC, with cadre deployment.

The mental, moral, economic decay etc. in this country is irreversible.
It’s time to pack for PERTH, with your dreams, skills etc that you built up during your life!

Socialist and capitalist ”cultures” hasn’t got any synergy, when it comes to the economy and the workplace!

Reading the ” Plan ” reminds me somewhat on a totally isolated Adolf H.
around mid April 1945 in the fuehrer bunker , sending non existing battle groups to halt the Sovjet army from entering Berlin .
South Africa is already a partly failed state and the party- ANC – that ensured this status is clearly not capable of turning this disaster around , never mind how many promises and plans they produce.

Dear Busi

While the frog-boiler and his cabal of ANC accomplices run this place(into the ground) little will change. Incompetence and stealing are the true values of the higher leadership.

We are finished and we will be broke within 3 years and decent folk will FLEE the failed state. Start with the judiciary, then Eskom, SAPS etc. and you realise we are a true example of the 1999 article in the Economist…the hopeless continent!

And Donald will have a giggle and smile.

Time for big business to demand action on the criminal corruption and EWC front. Dear Madam CEO if you believe this drivel I am afraid you have lost the plot

I suspect she doesn’t really believe. It’s just that the ‘position’ she holds is supposed to say those things. We are supposed to feel encouraged. Just like we did those few days before Xmas / Easter etc. That tooth in the saucer before going to sleep.

Every single one of the major problems facing this country is the direct result of the government. Lets list the major problems and who is to blame:

1. Insufficient electricity supply – Thank you ANC
2. Rampant corruption – Thank you ANC
3. Endless BEE requirements – Thank you ANC
4. Unfair labor legislation – Thank you ANC
5. Undermining of basic property rights – Thank you ANC
6. Crumbling infrastructure – Thank you ANC

and so I can go on.

“We can change the trajectory – we have a leadership that is committed to doing so.” I am sorry but I have to disagree, even though old Ramaposer always says the right things and always talks a great game everything has fallen flat since his presidency. This man has been president since 2018 and since then not a single major economic reform has been implemented. Instead we are still being threatened with EWC and radical economic transformation.

“The surest way to overcome the challenge of execution is for us to hold ministers and senior public servants to account.” And how do we do that prey tell? Yes. We vote them in again. Brilliant our average citizenry – the real ‘us’ with a national average IQ of below 75 and getting worse given the increasing poverty, unemployment and malnutrition. Sad.

“Fundamentally we are in a different position now. We can change the trajectory – we have a leadership that is committed to doing so.”

I beg to differ. The ANC and its leadership has no interest in changing anything and I have yet to see solid, consistent evidence to the contrary. They are like a river stream. Casually winding its way downhill, following the path of least resistance – the shortest distance between two points cannot be demonstrated by looking at the shape of a river. It can run 10 kms to cover a distance of 1 km. Any hurdles or obstructions are simply avoided to ensure consensus among the looting self-interested politicians. Twenty seven years of proof is available. Feeding at the trough is the main objective, nothing more, nothing less, regardless.

Given ANC corruption, it’s not apathy but pragmatism.

Busi you are pathetic.

The economic apathy comes from the voters apathy.

BLSA,BUSA,BMF BBC NAFCOC ETC. What are they doing? The students are on strike unable to afford fees. Really what are these formations for? Are they just factions in the business fraternity that are competing for limited resources. They are hell-bent on enriching the tiny elite and not the entire transformation that will benefit the poorest of the poor.

The economy is collapsing because of the lack of cooperation amongst the stakeholders. It is mainly the children of the workers that are now unable to register in higher education institutions. It is workers who are the backbone of the economy, like it or not. If workers are not happy, if they are the victims of maladministration, fraud and corruption in both public and private sector, there will definitely be the instability economically. Having read report on possible cause of Professor Mayosi`s death, I`m scarred there will be the repetition of the same incident. Our Academics are in between nail and flesh at this time. Let`s be patriotic enough and save them. Education for the Black child must be prioritized. That will bring the transformation and economic growth like it happened in other countries. It is inequality in conjunction with greed and selfishness that causes all these problems.

South Africa ( the ANC govenrment) has the same policies shows the same apathy as their Zimbabwean counterparts. Zimbabwe had the “grab a farm” policy and 51% indigent business requirement. What did it bring? Poverty and lots of refugees. Not surprisingly SA is on the same path.

End of comments.





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