Letter: Economic recovery must be the focus - The Witness

20 August 2020 - As South Africa exits the lockdown, it needs to focus on economic recovery. This is the message from government, the ANC and from business.

As South Africa exits the lockdown, it needs to focus on economic recovery. This is the message from government, the ANC and from business.

The reality is that South Africa does not need to recover from the pandemic as much as it needs to abandon the low-growth path that has beggared it for well over a decade, and find one that will attract investment, produce wealth, generate employment and support rising living standards.

As we at the Institute of Race Relations argue in our newly published economic proposals, Growth and Recovery: A Strategy to #GetSouthAfricaWorking, if there is any hope of getting South Africa working again, the country will need to revisit its policy environment. The most obvious starting point is to discard the threat to property rights inherent in the policy push for expropriation without compensation (EWC).

Undermining the security of assets – be they those of ordinary households or of multinational corporations – is a unique deterrent to investment. We have heard from numerous businesspeople that until EWC is taken off the table the country is essentially ‘uninvestable’.

And by meddling with the Bill of Rights, a sinister precedent will be set. If this is forced through, South Africa will come to regret it.

Far better to reaffirm the importance of property rights and the security of assets, extending those rights to the millions of South Africans who have assets, land and houses particularly, but lack legal title to them. And also to focus on the real failings of land reform, and to design initiatives that empower the poor.

Otherwise, we risk simply repeating the mistakes that brought us to this point in the first place.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

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