Letter: Manuel had a hand in the policies that led us to where we are - Businesslive

16 March 2020 - We appreciate that Trevor Manuel’s article is an edited version of a speech, but “a united front”, “focus[ing] on employment” and “speak[ing] with one voice” are, with respect, not policy positions.

We appreciate that Trevor Manuel’s article is an edited version of a speech, but “a united front”, “focus[ing] on employment” and “speak[ing] with one voice” are, with respect, not policy positions (“Our problem: spending more on the past than the future”, March 12).

His assessment of the state of the country is accurate enough, but there is no recognition that this is in part a consequence of policies he once promoted in government. Nor is there any recognition that warnings at the time explicitly of the present outcomes were ignored. The question, which extends beyond Manuel to the broader Mbeki-era administration and their erstwhile allies in business, is which of the policies they jointly agreed to do they think should now be changed or repealed? 

Would they agree that hard reforms are needed in labour market policy to price poor people into jobs via abandoning minimum wage laws, the political pursuit of decent work and the horizontal application of bargaining council agreements? We are well aware of the implications, but if these moves are not made, the unemployment rate cannot be rapidly eroded.

Race-based empowerment policies should be repealed, in our view, and replaced with something akin to the economic empowerment for the disadvantaged policy my colleagues developed. BEE has degenerated into rent-seeking that undermines SA’s competitiveness and serves as a tax on investment. But most large firms continue to advocate for the policy even as the economy stagnates. All policy moves against property rights should be abandoned unconditionally. But the position of business (and the few reformist thinkers still around the ANC) remains at best unclear on expropriation and prescribed assets.

On education, parents and communities should be granted near absolute control over how schools in their communities are run. But there are few champions of this idea in business and none we can identify in the broader ANC family. 

If the answer is no, that business and the erstwhile Mbeki administration would not support such reforms, SA’s decline must be expected to continue.

Frans Cronje, Institute of Race Relations

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/letters/2020-03-16-letter-manuel-had-a-hand-in-the-policies-that-led-us-to-where-we-are/

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