BLSA CEO’s Newsletter – 25 April 2022
POSTED ON: April 25, 2022 IN by Admin
Business has much to contend with: the new wave of Covid infections, ongoing loadshedding, a war that is disrupting global supply chains, extreme weather events leading to tragic destruction like the floods in KwaZulu-Natal. With all this going on, we have to focus on managing through it as best we can, supporting each other and the stakeholders who depend on us.
Of course, as I have written here often, business needs the best possible environment in which to operate for it to deliver value in the form of jobs and taxes. That environment is heavily influenced by government policy and the services that government delivers. We are partners and have to work together. This is often successful – the Solidarity Fund and the various rapid interventions that have been put together to relieve the distress in KwaZulu-Natal is but one recent example. But of course there are also challenges and disappointments, most obviously the ongoing struggle to achieve energy security.
In the short term, we find ourselves again under a national state of disaster and again facing a Covid wave. However, this time the two are not linked – the state of disaster is underpinning the rapid deployment of resources to KZN, but the Covid wave will instead be managed by new regulations. We are in the 30 day transition period from the state of disaster Covid regulations that were ended on 5 April before new National Health Act regulations become the new way of managing responses to the pandemic. This fifth wave will be the first test of these regulations, and I hope that will prove more effective than their predecessors in balancing the need to restrict the transmission of the virus with the need to have minimal disruption of the economy and our lives. There is some risk here – the previous waves saw many variations of restrictions as we tried as a country to calibrate our response. There were clear missteps that we have learned from. That learning must be fully absorbed into how we use the new regulations to deal with the pandemic.
Obviously, of course, the background levels of immunity have changed dramatically. Vaccines are our most important defence, and it continues to be important to get as many people as possible to be vaccinated. Business can play an important role in this effort through vaccine mandates, though clear policy from government on this would help. But apart from vaccines, the high rate of previous infections affords further levels of protection. Estimates for the prevalence of antibodies in the population range from 56% for those under 12 having never been vaccinated to 93% of those over 50 who have been vaccinated. This high level of protection has been credited with the relatively low impact of the omicron wave in terms of deaths and hospitalisations. So in determining what measures we need to fight the new wave, we can assume it will be less impactful than earlier waves and that therefore we can avoid measures that damage our fragile economic recovery. The previous waves have proven that we can find the best balance in managing the pandemic and the economy if there is full consultation so that the consequences of regulations can be understood and planned for. I look forward to engaging our public sector counterparts to find that balance.
In the Covid battle, the recovery from the KZN floods, and our striving for energy security, we are most effective when business and government work together. Business can do much to deliver solutions to the challenges, but we need open and honest dialogue and a willingness to follow through with actions by both sides. I will continue to push for greater follow through from government, while rallying business to be effective partners.
The floods in KwaZulu-Natal have dealt yet another blow to our economy following the Covid lockdowns and civil unrest in July last year, I write in my fin24 column. With more climate crises on the horizon, it’s time for our country to increase its investment in climate adaptation measures. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can be better prepared.
This is a weekly newsletter from BLSA CEO Busi Mavuso.
BLSA is a business organisation that believes in South Africa’s future and shares the values set out in the Constitution. In 2017, BLSA signed a contract with South Africa, committing business to playing its part in creating a South Africa of increasing prosperity for all by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business in partnership with government and civil society to deliver economic growth, transformation and inclusion.
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