Soup-kitchen economics

The ANC government’s sound economic policies have put South Africa on a good footing to address the backlogs of the past. For the past decade the government has implemented tight monetary and fiscal policies. It has been very painful but, in the long term, all South Africans will realise that it was the right thing to do. Had we not applied our own “structural adjustment” policies, we would have become the lackeys of foreign governments and donor institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Even the lunatics who claim to speak for the contemporary left cannot fail to swallow their pride in the face of South Africa’s economic strides. The ANC leadership was correct to ignore the wishful thinkers, found mainly in the trade union movement and the South African Communist Party, who would eradicate poverty through the running of donor-controlled soup kitchens.

We took a rough road and that has saved us from humiliation by Western countries and pessimistic racists.

The ANC government inherited a bankrupt state in 1994. The currency was fluctuating wildly; multinationals had disinvested; the economy was in reverse gear; and unemployment, already high, was on the ascent. The government acted pragmatically, working to strengthen the foundations so that growth could become a possibility.

Economic progress is a precondition for the normalisation of a society. A normal environment means that both young and old can have hopes and dreams capable of being fulfilled. National development means that the people must have confidence, pride and trust in their country, themselves, their flag and anthem, and their state institutions. A nation must have confidence in its leaders, precisely because it cannot be led by leaders of other people. In return the leaders must earn their respect and must not take it for granted.

Joblessness is a cause for hardship and low self-esteem. The unemployed cannot contribute constructively to their families and communities. A sense of hopelessness has pushed some people, particularly youth, into the brutal hands of gangsters and other anti-social elements. Professional political careerists have moved into this space, exploiting a sense of desperation and using young people as cannon fodder to advance their own goals.

Some people think that an economy can be manipulated artificially to create a boom. Zimbabwe is a good example of a country that enjoyed a fake economic boom that led to chronic economic problems and where impressive social development was not backed by an expanding economy. Its motto was spend, spend, spend—now followed by bust, bust, bust. We have a home-grown chorus singing the same song.

A better life for all can be guaranteed only by a growing economy.

Our economy is well-geared to deliver positive results to all our people. To reach that stage, we have to fulfil certain objectives. We have to show that we are a politically stable country; that we adhere to the rule of law; that we respect our Constitution and the independence of the judiciary; that we respect contracts for both the public and private sectors. In addition, we must establish a viable and reliable infrastructure; we should have a currency that is governed by market factors such as supply and demand; and we must establish an environment that is conducive for investors to entrust us with their money.

The government can achieve its goals of reducing poverty, illiteracy and unemployment only through sound and pragmatic economic leadership, enhanced by effective partnerships between government, labour and business.

The government’s growth targets of 6% and beyond are eminently achievable, driven by the rectification of social backlogs and the maintenance of the crumbling national infrastructure, much of which has been neglected for more than 20 years. The government and the public enterprises (Eskom, Transnet and so on) plan to spend nearly R400-billion on infrastructure upgrades and development in the next several years.

How many countries the size of South Africa are capable of raising such money out of their own resources without going with a begging bowl in hand to the front door of Number 10 Downing Street?

The protestations by our contemporary left against the government’s macroeconomic policies are symptoms of a directionless and confused pseudo-communism. They believe that our country can improve the lives of our people without the means to do so: a growing economy.

Former political activist Mkhuseli Khusta Jack is a businessperson in the Eastern Cape

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