From the Asian Tigers to Kerala

Predictions that the African National Congress (ANC) would shift its policies leftwards were confirmed by the outcomes of the commissions at the ANC policy conference on strategy and tactics this week.

Joel Netshitenzhe and Jeremy Cronin, both national executive committee (NEC) members, confirmed at a press briefing on Thursday that the ANC would formally adopt the interventionist strategies that the state has been taking recently, such as increasing infrastructure spend.

Cronin said the ANC would not only follow the Asian Tiger model of a developmental state, but would also study economic development models from Norway and the Indian province of Kerala. Cronin contrasted the experience of the Asian Tigers with that of South Africa, saying that the capitalist class in South Africa was more developed and that the state therefore required popular democratic support for its interventions.

The ANC had been locked into a debate about how it should relate to capital for the first two days of the conference. The adoption of the current draft strategy and tactics document with amendments sees the ANC cement, for the first time, formulations about the national democratic revolution in terms of a “social democracy and developmental state”. Delegates at the conference echoed provincial submissions that these concepts would need to be refined to have greater meaning.

NEC member Max Sisulu explained that the attributes of a developmental state include the capacity to identify and develop policies that ensure economic growth and social inclusion. He said that it is critical that the state enjoy the support of the majority of society in these efforts.

Although these formulations represent more progressive views of the state than the views that the ANC effectively adopted in the late Nineties, the left of the ANC remains critical of the document’s portrayal of the role of capital.

Critics of the document say that its failure to refer to the Freedom Charter shows that it operates more within a capitalist paradigm than the “mixed economy” envisioned by the charter.

In his presentation on the draft strategy and tactics document, Netshitenzhe questioned the KwaZulu-Natal delegates’ characterisation of “monopoly capital”—a reference to concentrated sectors of the economy such as banking and the steel industry—as an enemy of the national democratic revolution. He questioned whether the ANC could sustain that posture while asking capital to invest and create jobs in the economy.

The conference is likely to accept the current draft with amendments, despite calls for earlier strategy and tactics documents to be retained.

Netshitenzhe said that some of the key ways to manage monopoly capital would be through taxation, increasing the powers of the competition authorities and introducing additional regulation in the business sector.

Meanwhile, Matuma Letsoalo reports that some delegates at the conference have proposed the halving or phasing out of sector education and training authorities (Setas).

Delegates’ concerns centre on the failure of job creation to match South Africa’s average 5% economic growth over the past three years.

The Setas have been under fire since they were established in 2000 over their perceived failure to make a dent in scarce skills backlogs. Also of concern to delegates are continuing tensions between the labour and education departments, which are also seen as hampering skills development.

Sources told the Mail & Guardian that a rift was beginning to emerge in Jipsa, the government’s new skills-development initiative.

Educationalists were pitted against those wanting the primary emphasis to be placed on vocational training, said one government official.

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