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‘Political parties unable to craft solutions to SA’s problems’

Hope lies with civil society and business, says political analyst Ebrahim Fakir.

No political party has been able to craft a public policy that would alleviate the problems faced by many South Africans in a meaningful way, a political analyst has argued.

Ebrahim Fakir, director of programmes at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute, says political parties appear to propose vastly different political solutions to the country’s problems, but are actually very similar in terms of their policy offering.

Fakir was speaking about the political outlook for 2019 at an event hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), USB Executive Development Limited and the Institute for Futures Research in Johannesburg on Thursday.

He made the point that parties might sometimes differ on minor issues or arcane ideological doctrine, but they offer very similar baskets of solutions to societal problems. The EFF might offer a distinct set of approaches but the solutions it proposes are unrealistic and may push the country into a fiscal abyss.

Why are their offerings generally so similar?

Fakir believes it is due to politicians’ inability to read the nature of the changes in the social structure of the country, where four distinct classes have emerged – the super globally-connected elite who live in major metropolitan areas and are not solely identified by one race, a well-organised working class, the fragmented working class, and people highly dependent on grants and remittances from family members who largely stay in informal settlements on the peripheries of metropolitan townships.

“I think no political party has been able to craft a policy and political agenda – either in terms of what their own offerings are in terms of the [election] campaign, or in terms of what public policy can actually do – in order to alleviate the problems of these people.”

Demographic shifts

Political parties have also displayed an inability to read the demographic shifts in society, where younger people now form a much larger part of the population. Public policy does not account for their needs and requirements.

Against this background, parties come across as having a ‘hotchpotch’ of offerings and there is a fear that voter turnout in the upcoming election may be lower than usual, which may lead to a credibility crisis, he says.

Fakir says that while there is hope, it does not lie with those who are in public authority, but rather with civil society and business.

He says that although politicians are unresponsive and unaccountable and may face a crisis of credibility, business has displayed much of the same kind of behaviour over the last 25 years.

Time for an unpopular solution

“Is there something that can be done? It can be done, but it [the solution] is relatively unpopular. The first [step] is that one has to accept the fact that it cannot be business as usual.”

Businesses can’t be chasing unprecedented levels of revenue and profit growth over the next decade.

“It can’t happen. It won’t happen. It won’t happen not just because of the environment. It won’t happen because levels of societal trust in organisations of business [are] also declining.”

Fakir says companies need to moderate shareholder expectations around dividends, and moderate executive pay, benefits, share options and bonuses.

“This is especially true for state-owned enterprises, but it is increasingly becoming true for CEOs in the private sector.”

In the short-term, there has to be a cross-subsidisation of entry level jobs. Unskilled and entry level jobs will have to be a necessary feature of the economy to address the question of inequality and unemployment, he argues.

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They have no solutions because there are no solutions. We are on a collision course with arithmetic, and arithmetic is going to be the Winner.

Try a thought experiment. A farmer has a farm of 10 square miles, but it’s just him and his wife. So they have 10 kids because they need farm labour. The next generation now works 1 square mile. But those 10 have 10 children each, and now everyone works a tenth of a square mile. Do this again, and everyone now has a postage stamp.

At what point ( because tractors and farm machinery has been invented in the meantime) do you get family members for whom there is no job on the farm?

Well, the farm is the world, and the children are the 8bn of us living on it. We just don’t need all the labour we have around us, and we can’t put it to work.

Meantime another 90m people a year are arriving on earth. All of them young, and most of them will never see a job in their entire lives.

So the world belongs to the lucky few. Hence the inequality and no way of fixing it. At the end of the day, it’s just arithmetic.

The difference is that some of the people decided to leave the farm and invent modern ways of generating a living. Other people decided that they would either kill their competitors or steal from them.

Politicians in their lust for power have started appealing to the worst in mankind. Modern technology can solve a lot of problems but it seems that losers always take the low road.

That’s reality. You can only start changing it once you’ve accepted it. History tells us that reality can be changed. Just over a hundred years ago the city council of Johannesburg identified a crisis – too much ox dung on the streets and not enough resources to deal with it. A very short century later, the city is almost unrecognisable and the crises it faces as well. What has ox dung to do with unemployment? Everything. You can only change reality once you have accepted that’s how things stand at the moment. Do politicians have that ability? I wonder.

The sub headline must be a joke. Civil society is the problem because they keep on voting for these fools and mostly contribute nothing to the economy or country except more people to feed.

Quote,
Businesses can’t be chasing unprecedented levels of revenue and profit growth over the next decade.

In old and new S.A. The reserve bank act by setting interest rates rates to keep inflation in tune and a Rand currency stable. This practice, like clockwork,did fire shares value upwards. Making rich richer, and poor poorer. The one receive, others pay. Playing blame game is not fair if others decide. Strength of currency Rand is hampering shares moving up. Affecting the whole economy. Fine for the few haves, disaster for not. A healthy balance should be priority one for going on as usual.

Just remember that when the share values go up, the biggest beneficiaries are members of pension funds as they, as a group, are the largest shareholders in the market.

The catch is to get more people into pension funds, and that requires more people capable of those jobs with the ability to contribute to these funds. The solution to that is education.

The biggest failure since 1994 is in education. Our standards have dropped dramatically, and we still can’t get enough people to reach and pass matric.

The solution is simple – a total focus on education. Make the tough decisions on all factors affecting education!

There is a solution, but it will never be implemented. The government in South Africa, no matter who they are, ANC, EFF, DA, will always be held hostage by the masses. They are the majority voters with the power and if voting does not solve their problems they take to the streets and we have seen what the results of that is. We are thus sitting with masses and masses of uneducated people who are pulling the strings and most of the people they vote into government are also not fully equipped for the job and they in turn appoint their cronies, who seems to be even lesser equipped. Basically the non-contributing population is telling the contributing part of the population what to do.

The solution would be to run the country as a business. Thus the shareholders being the taxpayers, whom has voting power on a sliding scale as per their tax rate, will choose the directors to run their company. Thus you have a more skilled voter base as the big earners would probably have more business sense and will not vote a director into power who is not using their money as it should. Thus the contributing part of the population telling the non-contributing part what will be done. There is negatives to this system, but add accountability and enforce it, which is currently not being done, and this system should work. If you run the business well, you will be paid well, but overstep the boundaries and we will do more than just fire you.

If only….

Excellent article with timely and appropriate observations.

The ONLY party that is displaying the raw passion and BRUTAL – and necessary – interrogation of every assumption underpinning our society is the EFF.

They are doing what EVERY party in Parliament SHOULD be doing, but NONE of the others are doing.

Too bad their is neither wisdom nor intelligence in the EFF or the following it is attracting.

Every opposition member I have interviewed in Parliament is there above all, for their own private pension, and is a lazy-thinking sod doing the absolute minimum. Just enough to keep ahead of their competition on the party list.

“Working for the greater good of South Africa?” That would be a good idea, but is a joke.

As for “Businessmen” filling the void and providing leadership and direction? ROFLOL!

This is another class of people that have proven to be every bit as spineless and unethical as the politicians.

The only hope out of this morass is an honest media that can continually search for, and publicise possible solutions, and educate the public on the values that society must cultivate.

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