A better life for all, not some

By: Lebogang Maile

Following the recent controversy over Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga’s trip to Taiwan, which goes against the country’s international relations policy and position, the Democratic Alliance claimed that the trip was undertaken to attract investment and that the ANC was being critical because it doesn’t value job creating-investment in South Africa and in fact doesn’t care about the millions of jobless people in the country. This is not only disingenuous coming from the Democratic Alliance, but shows how little they understand and sympathise with the plight of our people.

In a speech he gave at the Wits Business School on the 19th of July 2016, IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton highlighted that,” South Africa is grappling with growth that is too slow to raise average living standards, which is deeply problematic when one-third of the working population is effectively excluded from the economy. So far, there has been only limited progress on reforms to remedy that situation. What does this mean? The prospect of falling per capita income and increases in a jobless rate already among the world’s highest. That would spell tough times ahead, particularly given the difficulties facing the global economy. I know this is a blunt message. But anyone who admires South Africa’s many accomplishments has to worry about what it will mean if these economic problems are not tackled soon. Of course, some of these issues —particularly exclusion and income inequality — are legacies of the apartheid era. But with the passage of time, un-addressed issues can become obstacles.” The fundamental question that we need to ask ourselves when we look at the South African economy is: how can the distribution of wealth and control over the economy be changed in material terms so that it can be inclusive and create opportunity for all and not just an elite few. This is something that the DA has never been concerned about, despite its claims to care about unemployment within our country.

The truth of the matter is that we need to build an economy that is not just growing and creating jobs, but is also inclusive, giving opportunities to previously advantaged individuals and communities who make up the majority of the unemployed. Growth that is not inclusive is as undesirable as no growth at all. The DA, with its fundamentalist emphasis on free market economics doesn’t seem to have grasped the concept that markets, in and of themselves, are intrinsically skewed to historic privilege. The way markets are structured tends to lend itself to skewed wealth distribution which creates growing inequality. This is exacerbated by the oligopolistic nature of our economy, which has developed huge barriers to entry for new/smaller players that protect the interests of big conglomerates and locks out newcomers who are often the drivers of the innovation and enterprise that is required to grow an economy and create meaningful, dignified employment.

As the ANC government, our focus is on finding ways to intervene decisively so that we can reshape market outcomes to give opportunities to those who are disadvantaged and create an inclusive, growing, dynamic, modern economy that has mainstreamed and actualised the massive potential of the township economy.

It is for this reason, that as the Gauteng government we have put in place an Economic Plan with a focus on eleven specific sectors. This plan demonstrates that through these sectors and sub-sectors and decisive interventions across the five development corridors within the province, Gauteng can be radically transformed into a competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy. Our implementation of the Economic Plan is anchored by these economic sectors with emphasis on interventions along the following cross-cutting themes, in order to facilitate the achievement of our agenda to Transform, Modernise and Re-industrialise Gauteng:

  • Africa regional integration and development
  • Black ownership and control of the economy
  • Township economy revitalisation
  • Local production and beneficiation
  • Public/private procurement
  • Research and innovation
  • Skills development
  • Infrastructure investment to stimulate the economy
  • A focus on the green and blue economies

Through our interventions, we want to remove barriers to entry for SMMEs and township enterprises, create market access for SMMEs and township enterprises through collaborative partnerships with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders as well as boosting intra-Africa trade and investment, remove red tape and reduce the cost of doing business in order to stimulate investment, promote localisation of production (revive the manufacturing sector), give SMMEs and township enterprises greater access to finance and create infrastructure that will encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth that will be inclusive and equitable.

As Professor Simon Roberts, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development at UJ has previously stated, “meaningful access to economic opportunities through reducing barriers to entry and proactively supporting (small, new) rivals can play an important part in changing the structure of the economy.” This is what we are about as the ANC government as we pursue our objective of creating a better life for all our people, not just some who are in the minority. This is what the DA clearly does not and will never fathom with their adherence to laissez faire, neo-liberal economics.

Lebogang Maile is the Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development