Tuesday, 22 September 2015

South Africa's red herring

It might be prudent, for the time-being, to relegate the public indiscretions and or financial inconsistencies of the EFF's Malema to the back-bench and focus instead on more pressing issues which will, in time, become defining.

Faced with a contradiction in terms and based on the premise that all South Africans are free, the idea that economic emancipation or economic freedom, if you like, should, by definition, follow is inherently flawed. In fact, perversely, history often confirms the opposite.

Has the African National Congress (ANC) - government failed its people? Yes, mostly but it's hardly surprising and that's not a reflection on the competencies within the ANC but rather on the system itself. Yes, some officials have been incompetent and yes some are corrupt. Even so, it would be ridiculous to suggest that South Africa's economic woes are commensurate with the ANC and by extrapolation any different from other developing countries.

Service-delivery promises, often the only tangible way for ordinary people to measure the success of their vote, have fallen short. Poverty is rife. 25% of the workforce remains unemployed. Schools, hospitals and other basic infrastructural necessities are either in a state of decay, disrepair or are inadequate. So where to from here?

Traditionally there are three basic economic strategies to uplift the poor. One - grants, subsidies, welfare & charity. Two - artificial wealth redistribution and Three - Education and access to funding. Most countries prefer a combination of the three with an emphasis on one or the other. The permutations are many... In South Africa we employ a combination of the three with an emphasis on welfare. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is our preferred version of artificial wealth redistribution and we have legislation compelling banks to lend money favourably to the poor. Now, if the EFF has its way it will nationalise the mines. That's tolerable if the mines are well-managed and draw on skills from within the private sector and the proceeds spent on higher education and infrastructure investment. If the emphasis is on education everything else takes care of itself. If however, as most suspect, the EFF plans to nationalise the mines to give the money to the poor, that would be finite, unsustainable and inefficient. Worst of all, if the EFF does, in fact, nationalise the mines, for the sake of taking from one ethnic group to give to another, then that would be counterproductive, demotivating and in short, nothing short of disastrous.

So, if we are serious about this country's future let's not begrudge a politician his time in the limelight for that's what he is, a politician. Notwithstanding, ignoring the plight of the poor and the associated socio-economic issues as the ignorant rantings of a fool is economic suicide.

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