Busisiwe Mavuso | 3 levers SA needs to pull to rebuild confidence and rejuvenate our economy

POSTED ON: May 6, 2022 IN by Admin
levers levers

By Busisiwe Mavuso
How we act in the short term is important in terms of determining the type of society we are to become.

It’s a sad indictment of what’s happened to us as a country that we had so little to cheer as we commemorated International Labour Day. While workers’ rights have been firmly established for those who do have jobs, things seem bleak for those who don’t with unemployment at a staggering 35%. Only 14.3-million South Africans have jobs, according to Statistics SA, and only a better education system combined with higher levels of economic growth can change this.

How we act in the short term is important in terms of determining the type of society we are to become. There are just a few levers we need to pull to rebuild confidence in our investment environment and rejuvenate our economic recovery.

In terms of building confidence, few things are as important as implementing Judge Raymond Zondo’s recommendations, both to prosecute those implicated in state capture and to set up the structures, processes and political culture designed to deter future corruption.

It appears it will be impossible to eliminate corruption entirely because it so deeply entrenched at all levels. So much so that special precautions were needed to ensure that the KwaZulu-Natal disaster relief funds weren’t looted. Setting up an independent public procurement anti-corruption agency, including a council, inspectorate, litigation unit, tribunal and court, will be an important step to prevent corruption on such a grand and premeditated scale as we saw during the state capture era.

What we need to try to develop throughout government is the same sense of revulsion that citizens have towards corruption. Instead there’s a surprising sense of acceptance of corrupt elements at best or at worst, a disturbing tendency to elevate them to some sort of radical hero status.

It’s difficult to understand this attitude in the context of the devastating effect the state capture era had on our state-owned enterprises, economy and society. Judge Zondo states that President Jacob Zuma readily opened the doors for the Guptas to go into the state-owned entities and “help themselves to the money and assets of the people of SA”. Citizens understand that it’s their money being stolen; some government officials seem entirely oblivious to that. We need to develop a culture where the damages suffered by the state and its citizens from corruption are clearly understood throughout government.

Another lever that needs to be pulled is one that ends the bureaucracy that private companies need to navigate to get approval from electricity regulator Nersa to build a power plant. There should also be a faster rollout of renewable energy bid windows. We need to get new energy produced as fast as possible to reach our goal of achieving a stable supply. Without energy security, future Workers Days will be even more bleak as the economy will fail to grow at a rate fast enough to sustain existing jobs let alone create new ones.

A third important lever is the R1-trillion infrastructure programme. In the executive summary of the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 gazetted on 11 March 2022, the department of public works and infrastructure states: “Infrastructure delivery will be one of the most significant contributors to South Africa’s transition from a historically closed minerals economy to one that is globally and regionally integrated, low carbon, inclusive and promoting of dynamism in the industries of the future.”

Rolling out big infrastructure projects will also trigger lots of short-term economic activity while developing a more capable, efficient state. The multiplier benefits are huge and every effort needs to be made to accelerate the rollout of projects. Resolving the inefficiencies at our ports and rail networks alone will add billions of rands to export earnings, and the fiscus, annually.

All these important initiatives could be improved if private sector expertise and efficiencies were brought in. Public-private partnerships will be a core part of the infrastructure rollout but business is more than willing to commit resources to streamline cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and we’re itching to get going with all of Judge Zondo’s recommendations.

There are many other important reforms in process that need to be implemented, particularly the unit in the Presidency to cut red tape across all organs of government. But pulling these three levers to tackle corruption, our energy supply and our infrastructure programme will be incredibly important to developing an inclusive society with an efficient, growing economy that creates jobs. The longer we dawdle, the higher the unemployment rate will soar.

*Mavuso is the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa. This article first appeared in Fin24.

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