Letter: How will SA approach the future? - Cape Argus

22 September 2020 - South Africa’s entering lockdown Level 1 is not the end of the lockdown or of the COVID crisis, but it does prompt serious thought about how the country will approach the task of managing the future. With some estimates of the economic damage inflicted on South Africa over the year exceeding 10% of GDP, the economy has literally been decimated.

South Africa’s entering lockdown Level 1 is not the end of the lockdown or of the COVID crisis, but it does prompt serious thought about how the country will approach the task of managing the future. With some estimates of the economic damage inflicted on South Africa over the year exceeding 10% of GDP, the economy has literally been decimated.

A ‘recovery’ plan is making its way to cabinet for final approval.

Among (many) other things, it reportedly seeks to encourage employment creation in exchange for a ‘review (of) employment and empowerment-related policy and legislation’.   

This is potentially very positive. Intrusive and rigid labour legislation and racial empowerment policy (B-BBEE) have been a major hindrance to dealing with our various socio-economic problems: anaemic growth, inadequate job creation and poverty. This is all the more important if the plan includes creating a sensible operating environment for small firms.

But a ‘review’ will not be enough on its own, and the necessary policy changes will challenge the government’s ideological convictions. There is a real possibility that this will prevent any meaningful action. This is regrettably a path we’ve walked many times before – indeed, regulatory reform to assist small businesses has been promised since the 1980s.

It has also been reported that there have been significant tensions among the ‘social partners’ about the plan. This may also be positive, if it signifies that reformists are now trying to assert themselves. Let us hope so, for that at least holds out the possibility of reform.

The alternative is likely to be a fetid faux ‘consensus’, in effect, in favour of the status quo. South Africa can’t afford that.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

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