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Who are Ramaphosa’s new economists?

What the résumés and activities of the members of his economic advisory council reveal.

Government apparently needed another economic advisory panel.

It seems the reams of data produced by Statistics SA, SA Reserve Bank’s impeccable economic research, and the inputs from the ministers of finance and public enterprises are not sufficiently clear about what is wrong in the economy and how to fix the problems.

The new Presidential Economic Advisory Council will, according to The Presidency, “ensure greater coherence and consistency in the implementation of economic policy and ensure that government and society, in general, are better equipped to respond to changing economic circumstances”. The new economic advisory council is also intended to build a capable state.

According to the formal announcement, the council will be chaired by the president, will meet every quarter, and will receive support from National Treasury and existing economic research structures. The announcement states that the new council will engage with the existing National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

As an aside, Nedlac was established as “the vehicle by which government, labour, business and community organisations seek to cooperate, through problem-solving and negotiation, on economic, labour and development issues and related challenges facing the country”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed 18 members to the council and will announce a 19th member later. Eleven of the members are academics, mostly from SA universities.

Moneyweb looked at the academics’ published research to get an idea of their approach to economic matters.

Here then, is some background on the council members (in the same order as in The Presidency’s announcement):

Prof Benno Ndulu

Former professor at the University of Dar es Salaam. and governor of the Bank of Tanzania from 2008 to 2018, Ndulu is credited with reviving Tanzania’s economy with reforms aimed at inclusive growth. According to a Reuters interview, he advocated lower current account deficits and fiscal and debt discipline. His reforms were to licence more commercial banks in Tanzania and allow mobile financial services and the establishment of credit bureaus.

Prof Mzukisi Qobo

A lecturer in international business at the University of the Witwatersrand, Qobo has published various papers on international business, as well as research on the mining and resources sectors.

Qobo’s inclusion will make for some interesting moments during meetings, given his role as co-author (with Prince Mashele) of ‘The Fall of the ANC: What Next?’ 

On the homepage of his own website is some ready advice for the president: “Government needs to keep the momentum by demonstrating more decisiveness in reforming the economy, in eliminating wastage in government, in cutting red tape and in rebuilding institutions that are damaged.”

Prof Dani Rodrik

Rodrik is professor of international political economy at Harvard University and has published several articles on international trade and industrial development. A lot of his papers deal with the effects of opening economies for global trade. One is titled ‘What constitutes good economic policy and why some governments are more successful than others’.

Prof Mariana Mazzucato

A professor at the University College London, Mazzucato has won several awards, including a prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. Much of her work is focused on new approaches to capitalism, apparently following her belief that capitalism is in crisis and does not work. One paper is titled ‘Rethinking capitalism: Economies and policy for sustainable and inclusive growth’.

Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya

One of only a few economists on the panel who hails from the business world, Matikinca-Ngwenya worked at the Bureau for Economic Research before joining Rand Merchant Bank. She was appointed chief economist at FNB at the age of 29. Her analysis of the 2019 budget speech concluded that “at some point the government is going to have to rein in the public wage bill and make these departments more productive”. Given her banking background, she is also outspoken on the need to build investor confidence in SA, saying that the biggest risk facing the country is the outflow of foreign investment.

Dr Renosi Mokate

Among her long list of qualifications and positions, Mokate’s service as former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and consultant to the ministry of finance and to treasury is important as a member of the new council. She is also listed as chairperson of the board of trustees of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), shouldering the responsibility for ensuring that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) invests members’ pensions effectively.

Dr Kenneth Creamer

Another noted academic (from the University of the Witwatersrand), Creamer has published a lot of papers on fiscal policy, monetary policy, macroeconomics, competition policy and labour market policy. He is also a director of Creamer Media, publisher of the respected Engineering News and Mining Weekly titles, which hopefully translates into an ability to translate academic knowledge into practical solutions.

Prof Alan Hirsch

Hirsch knows the way from his office at the University of Cape Town to the president’s office quite well, having served as member and chief economist of earlier advisory boards at the presidency from 2002 to 2012. Besides a long list of positions and academic publications, he is also a member of a not-for-profit economic research outfit based in Pretoria – Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies, which facilitates research, projects and seminars, and maintains a big economic database. Its research covers all economic sectors. Of importance here is that it has done a lot of research into the potential impact of government policies.

Prof Tania Ajam

The presidency describes Ajam as an expert on fiscal policy and public financial management, subjects she lectures on at the University of Stellenbosch. Her published research includes papers on how to get value for money from public spending and the workings of the Public Financial Management Act. Hopefully the decision makers will take her views – such as this one: “a highly politicised bureaucracy staffed by under-qualified, inexperienced, but politically connected incompetents also invariably compromises the state’s ability to deliver on its democratic mandate” – to heart.

Dr Grové Steyn

It’s not difficult to predict what Steyn will tell the president and his fellow council members. Simply, to fix Eskom. He is a member of private consultancy Meridian Economics, most of whose work has centred on Eskom, Nersa, power tariffs, electricity supply, Eskom’s financial health, and the effects of electricity supply on economic development, as well as the options for restructuring Eskom for sustainability.

Wandile Sihlobo

Sihlobo will be the voice of the very important agricultural sector. The Presidency notes that he is head of Agribusiness Research at the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA, but neglects to mention his stint as economist at Grain SA or his website, Agricultural Economics Today. He has advised Ramaphosa before, as a member of the panel that looked into land reform. His work includes research into labour, productivity in the agricultural sector, land reform and international trade.

Dr Liberty Mncube

Mncube, former chief economist at the Competition Commission, is a lecturer in economics at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is also listed as managing director of FTI Consulting, an independent advisory and economic advisory firm. Its website creates the impression that it produces bespoke research reports for clients and uses the research to testify in court cases where some kind of economic opinion is needed.

Prof Fiona Tregenna

Tregenna’s academic qualifications are astounding, including post-graduate degrees from Cambridge and Massachusetts. She currently lectures on economics and econometrics at the University of Johannesburg. Her published papers makes for good reading, covering aspects of industrialisation and deindustrialisation in developing economies. One of her main points is that developing countries should not deindustrialise – move from a manufacturing economy to a service-orientated or information economy – too early. In short, industry creates wealth and jobs.

Prof Haroon Bhorat

Another academic, Bhorat, from the University of Cape Town, has built expertise in labour economics, researching the effect of a minimum wage, poverty, income equality and the distribution of wealth in SA. One of his interesting papers covers aspects of higher education, employment and economic growth.

Ayabonga Cawe

The presidency introduced Cawe as a “development economist engaged as a public intellectual”. He served on the recent Nedlac and presidential advisory panel to set a national minimum wage. Cawe is also noted as an ambassador of non-profit Wellbeing Economy Alliance, which describes him as economist, columnist, radio presenter, photographer and activist.

Prof Vusi Gumede

In addition to his post as professor at the University of South Africa (Unisa), Gumede has authored several books, including Inclusive Development in Africa. He also started Gumede Academy & Research, described as an intellectual project and professional network. His research papers include Rethinking and Reclaiming Development in Africa, Revisiting Regional Integration in Africa, Towards Effective Development States in Southern Africa, and Illicit financial Flows in Southern Africa. He also contributed to the Nepad economic plan.

Dr Thabi Leoka

One of the few economists from the private sector, Leoka started her career at Investec Asset Management, working in SA and London. She recently served on the commission of inquiry into the shenanigans at the Public Investment Corporation as well as the finance minister’s panel that reviewed the value-added tax (Vat) status of basic products. She also chairs the economic committee at Stats SA and is listed as one of the eight board members of Corruption Watch.

Prof Imraan Valodia

Valodia is an economist and dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is an expert in the informal economy, an important part of the SA economy. He has written papers on inequality, competition policy, industrial development, employment in developing countries and, above all, the informal sector, with research into the state of the informal economy and the collection of data about the informal economy.

Hopefully the new economic advisory council will be able to bring tangible change and push government to do the things we all know are necessary.

Sceptics might say it is merely another talkfest, the standard solution to any problem in SA. Whatever the problem, we hold a meeting, indaba, bosberaad, inquiry, commission of inquiry, lekgotla or appoint a council to talk until the specific problem is overtaken by a new, more urgent problem that requires a new meeting, indaba, enquiry et al.

Important to note is that the president stated that the members are serving voluntarily, without payment, except for a travel and food allowance.

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” Whatever the problem, we hold a meeting, indaba, bosberaad, inquiry, commission of inquiry, lekgotla or appoint a council to talk until the specific problem is overtaken by a new, more urgent problem that requires a new meeting, indaba, enquiry et al ”

Unfortunately this will happen because their is no capacity left in this country to execute any of the grand plans!!!!

As much as these individuals commands respect, it’s less laws we need to become a more business friendly environment.

Waste of time and money.

If you need these people to tell you ESKOM needs to cut their bloated labour force you obviously suffer from some sort of learning disability and that makes the exercise fruitless.

If you don’t need them to tell you that why have you not done it? Because there is no political will. If there is no political will what is the point of the panel?

This is just to convince the likes of Moody’s that they are trying to do something. The unfortunate fact is they are not and their socialist agenda can never accommodate any suggestions made by the panel. So again. Do you want to tell me they don’t know that? Why have the panel?

@Mmmm

Could not agree more, what a waste of time and money.

Did Cyril not read Tito’s economic blueprint plan?

Honestly, I would rather not want to know how much money this exercise is going to waste…I’m guessing millions…

Ok so looks like 2 of them have actually worked in the private sector, not just lectured and advised.They also joined large companies so not really any skin in the game.

Where are our real entrepreneurs who should be consulted, the Ruperts and the Joffes, people that can do it.

my experience of lecturers and consultants is that most of the time their advise does not work but because it is part of the syllabus it must be like that.

Then of course there is the pay aspect, these people will be well rewarded for the hot air they will spew and you don’t rock the boat when your cheque has a lot of zeros on it and you are not really accountable for anything.

These are advisors. They are meant to give advice. Not to be accountable for implementation. If you accept their advice, then you are responsible for it working. I question the validity of your ‘experience’.

@pwgg

I agree! Studying and lecturing on the

theories of the economy, business management, not to mention the psychology involved etc. is nothing compared to having earned your stripes in the real world out there, while having skin in the game, where nothing plays out like it’s written in the academic literature.

With respect, Cyril knows exactly what must be done but needs a group of high power intellectuals to help him force the deranged socialist /Leninist faction in the ANC to accept his plan.

I disagree. During 18 months Cyril has introduced NHI, EWC and prescribed assets that will wreck the economy.

After 18 months he announces an 18 member panel that will hold quarterly meetings to ignite the economy.

His priorities and loyalty lie first and foremost with his party.

It is because he has no vision of his own that he rules by consensus.

What makes it totally laughable is the fact that they should maybe have had a panel when they made the important and disastrous decisions regarding NHI, EWC, Prescribes assets and many other disasters.

They found it so easy to make these important decisions without guidance so why the big panel now?

The NEC cadres like Magashule, Oros etc.etc. made that call. It cost nothing.

Shows you what the intention is.

Analysis Paralysis, that is what the ANC suffers from. What really paralysis them is the fact that the solutions to our problems are the exact opposite of the resolutions that were taken at every ANC conference over the past 25 years. We have to recognise the problem before we can even begin to correct the problem. Voters need to realize that the ANC is the problem, and therefore, nobody from the ANC can offer the solutions.

Things will deteriorate at a slower pace under this president, that is the positive aspect, but things can only begin to improve when our own Margaret Thatcher, Hellen Zille, becomes president. I don’t think she will live long enough for us to experience this true and lasting solution.

The people of South Africa are not interested in solutions, because they are not interested in having Helen Zille as president. They should live with the results of their decisions then.

Amen! No truer statement ever. Until the SA public wakes up to the ANC, we can only expect things to get worse.

Another talk shop. The mere fact that there will be a report back session by this huge committee every three months, says it all.
I give this clumsy effort very little prospect to be effective or productive beyond wordy ambiguous, contradictory reams of reports.
Sadly, this is nothing but twiddling of thumbs while we are sliding down the economic slope.

Hopeless choices of actual nobody’s. Rather get retired businessmen who can execute things not some academics marking economics 1 papers!
fair reflection on the capability of the tired, ineffective and ultimately incompetent president.

and if you look at Mark Barnes’ efforts at SAPO and Meyer Kahn long ago now at SAPS, even this is a big ask. All government, SOE’s and municipalities have effectively been hollowed out by ANC nepotism, cadre deployment and tenderpreneuring. All still approved from the top; zero change.

Then add that SA industry is, in my view, hopelessly unbalanced with subsidies and monopolies going to SASOL, cellular providers, car makers, timber, sugar etc while other key businesses in services, mining and agriculture get nothing; rather get vilified.

Not a good outlook.

These are advisors. They are not meant to execute things. It is not a difficult concept.

There are brilliant minds in the panel, they are not nobodies.

Commentators here question why we appoint advisors when there is no time left for talking.

Plus whatever consensus the panel comes up with must be approved by the alliance.

They take years to even decide to think about anything.

This panel desperately needs an injection of real cognitive and logical intelligence. A couple of scientists, doctors or engineers would be sufficient to cut the interesting discussion around how many angels can pass through the eye of a needle, and get some concrete results for the long-suffering taxpayers of SA.

You right. May be they did not want to hear someone in their discussions saying that is not going to work.

Good article, I was wondering who is who in zoo…

Not that clear on the ideologies of each of these people though… Mostly academics, probably all leftist democratic liberals, which wont get us anywhere, as they cant offend anyone with any proposed solutions…

Need a few real hardened capitalists, to try release the states stranglehold on the economy…

If they don’t know what to do after 25 years of misrule, blatant theft of state and taxpayer money, massive loss of skills, etc then this ain’t gonna work. The solution is really simple actually – whatever the ANC thinks it should do, they should do exactly the opposite. This way they will stop doing stupid things and start moving in the right direction. I should bill them for this advice – could have saved them millions in fees.

There can also be no meaningful turnaround, irrespective of any good advice from the panel, before the criminal politicians are tried and jailed. It is naive in the extreme to expect thieves and criminals to suddenly “see the light” and do what is best for the country. Hopefully this is one of the recommendations from the panel members.

You can have all the best experts in the world but they will never ever, for example, convert a pack of mules into contenders to race in the Durban July. Until that giant elephant in the room is tackled, there will be zero economic progress in this country. I’m sure that privately, all those panelists will agree that without decisive action being taken at removing & eradicating the corruption within the governing party all the best advice in the world will amount to nothing.

The panel appears to potentially have the right ingredients. I give them the benefit of the doubt at this point. What is urgently outstanding however, is an advisory council on clearing up corruption in the public sector. I would be prepared to contribute an additional voluntary tax payment for that.

– Basic stop theft
– Decide economy system
– Reduce incompetent staff at SOE’s
– Small business minimum labour laws
– Cut red tape to open a business
– Employ business advisors to mentor and support any start ups.
– Tax cuts to those who employ people including house helpers
– Employ police / court system until crime is zero
– Reclaim townships they must be places where it is safe to live
– Education must be free where there is a shortage of skills
– Rainbow Nation Act referring to race as a way of pushing your rights or entitlement should be hate speech.

…and rhetorical referral to apartheid when starting SONA speeches….making the tax payer further hostile.

“Stop theft” – great advice there! Did you think of this one by yourself?

No MIke Schussler or Dawie Roodt? It seems as if Ramaphosa does not want to hear the unpopular opinions of what is needed.

The very expensive version of Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in progress!

Just another action from ANC to indicate to any doubting voter that “we the ANC is DOING SOMETHING about your dire economic situation”.

Despite impressive selection of individuals, in the end, this populist party will only act upon their less educated voters’ demands (or that of labour unions…who is really ruling the country). Look at Eskom’s over-staffed problem for example…with the unions not going to budge.

ANC running out of options. Don’t know what to do to curb the economic decline.

And this while the ANC has a plethora of Members of Parlement, Ministers, Deputy-Ministers, Director-Generals, Special Advisor to the Minister, etc in most departments……….now ADD THE COST of special advisory envoys that should’ve been delivered by the state.

“…artificial intelligence”??

Will they be offering their services on a pro bono basis? In the spirit of regenerating the economy and achieving measurable results, I would hope that any remuneration they get, other than travelling expenses will be based on results achieved.

One can only hope …

This grouping makes me think of Boswell- Wilkie circus – there are a few wild animals in cages, prancing horses, acrobats, jugglers and clowns.
I have never managed to understand economists even those who lectured at varsity – they all have divergent views – how this grouping is going to get on together is beyond me – an analogy – Alice in Wonderlands mad hatters party

So, you want one ideology, no different views, no debate? Sounds wise.

@Anything

The irony in your statement is so telling.

Do you honestly think this list of academics are going to come to the table with different ideologies and views?
When last did you visit a tertiary education institute?
How is it that you think academics don’t read the same books and preach the same left socialist/communist preachings?
Do yourself a favour and go look what has happened to the world of academia world wide, if it’s not already far-left it’s getting pushed in that direction with force.

The only way to unleash the energy in the economy is for the ANC to split, with the unions and the left forming a labour party and the bulk of the ANC to form a centrist government with the opposition.

President CR knows this but does not have the courage to do so. However, we are in for a very slow and painful rebirth of politics here and we do not have the time for that.

A lot of heavy hitters… but is anyone in govt listening? Ultimately to fix this economy they are going to have to take some strong medicine which is going to lead to the ultimate bogeyman: JOB LOSSES. I’m referring to making the SOEs a going concern (those that we actually need to keep the economy going, like ESKOM). In the case of something unnecessary like SAA, which should just be shut down, thousands of jobs will be lost. And of course the govt is not prepared to take this necessary but painful step. Hence the ‘analysis paralysis’.

You need a DIVERSITY of economic views.

These economists together are fantastic, but the BIG PROBLEM is you need SMAll BUSINESS, MEDIUM SIZED BUSINESS AND BIG BUSINESSES ENTREPRENEURS, CAPITALISTS, INVESTORS, UNIONS, COMMUNISTS, ECONOMISTS on such a panel, those people with a diversity of economic views that KNOW what they want to see and do in the economy to see it grow at 7% a year.

And basically as history shows, just cut the size of government and you are almost guaranteed the fastest economic growth, without the need of managers or advisers – just cut government spending and taxes to ZERO.

I predict this is all just a show to continue with the SOEs…

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