Investec chief executive Stephen Koseff warns that populist phrases such as “white monopoly capital” are a ruse for looting, but says he’ll “get over himself” when it comes to embracing the term “radical economic transformation”.
“I’m going dippy … the number of engagements you have to have can drive you to drink,” said straight-talking Koseff, a participant in the chief executives initiative.
There has been enough talk about the National Development Plan (NDP) — the time for implementation is now, Koseff told the audience at a Progressive Business Forum briefing taking place on the sidelines of the ANC policy conference.
Sharing the stage with Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, Koseff emphasised a pressing need to pour cold water on populist rhetoric.
“The mining charter, we believe as business, was crazy. It was not properly processed. Ultimately it puts off investors.”
On talk of changing the Reserve Bank’s mandate, he said: “People don’t understand that loose monetary policy leads to hyperinflation.”
Referring to phrases such as “white monopoly capital”, Koseff said he worried when business was seen as a scapegoat for wider societal problems and used as an excuse for rent-seeking and looting. “Business is not the enemy,” he said.
It was important for business to find common ground with government and labour, he said, noting that this included radical economic transformation. “I will get over myself on the words ‘radical economic transformation’,” said Koseff. “They mean different things to different people.
“Ultimately, we need accelerated growth that supports transformation and job creation.”
Koseff said that while there are problems with capitalism, which in its purest form does not cater to the needs of all people, “populist policies are clearly not the way to go. It might be politically expedient in the short term, but it has disastrous long-term consequences.”
Mkhize agreed. “The problem with populism is that by the time you discover its flaws, it’s outside the lifetime of those who were populist.”
He added that when governments take too long to resolve problems, it gives rise to populism.
“There is a fake narrative trying to surface that the ANC government is not serious about implementing the NDP or that it’s just political rhetoric,” Radebe said. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
Radebe said implementation of the NDP and its vision for 2030 happens “every day of the week”, and that it is the bedrock for most of the discussions at the policy conference.
But he also said the plan needs to be implemented with renewed urgency.
It will, however, be a long and arduous journey. “It was never going to be a quick and easy feat,” said Radebe. He said the state is playing its part, but everyone — business, labour and social partners — needs to hold each other accountable.
The economy needs to grow to meet the needs of the people, Radebe said. Developing trust and confidence in government will encourage the private sector to invest the roughly R600-billion in funds it is sitting on.
Mkhize said the financial sector must lead the way and sew those cash piles into the economy. Additionally, “the private sector needs to come to terms with the fact that the patterns of investment need to be transformed”.
Mkhize said the ANC has adopted the NDP as a blueprint. “The NDP is not just a plan for government, it’s a plan for South Africans.”