Shared eco­nomic growth is the only way to go

CityPress - - Voices - Phillip Dex­ter voices@city­press.co.za

Poverty, in­equal­ity and unem­ploy­ment, as well as disease, skills and ac­cess to ser­vices, are still de­ter­mined, to a large de­gree, by the patterns of own­er­ship and power cre­ated un­der colo­nial­ism, slav­ery and apartheid, and are re­pro­duced through the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem and the ne­olib­eral ide­ol­ogy that dom­i­nates think­ing at a num­ber of lev­els in gov­ern­ment and busi­ness.

The call for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion has there­fore rightly been made, but is de­fined in var­i­ous ways and with dif­fer­ent em­pha­sis, prompt­ing the ques­tion: What is rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion? It ap­pears that, for some, it is any ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth by black peo­ple, whether by theft, cor­rup­tion, pa­tron­age, fraud or ten­der rig­ging.

This is hardly surprising – the cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy in­her­ited from apartheid has scarcely been trans­formed and con­tin­ues to re­pro­duce poverty, in­equal­ity, unem­ploy­ment and un­even de­vel­op­ment. This means the sys­tem is rigged against black peo­ple in gen­eral and against women, youth and peo­ple who are dif­fer­ently abled in par­tic­u­lar.

Most black peo­ple are also aware that all historical ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth by white peo­ple took place thanks to colo­nial theft and plun­der, slav­ery and racial cap­i­tal­ism, and by ig­nor­ing the hu­man rights of work­ers. In such cir­cum­stances, it is hardly surprising that many peo­ple feel that ac­cu­mu­la­tion by any means nec­es­sary is ac­cept­able.

But can we, as rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, democrats and pa­tri­ots, ac­cept this logic? Ob­vi­ously not. This would lead us to fur­ther cor­rup­tion, theft, law­less­ness and pos­si­bly civil war.

So what is to be done? The move­ment grow­ing in the coun­try that is cor­rectly mo­bil­is­ing against cor­rup­tion and theft by those in gov­ern­ment must be sup­ported, but this will only re­solve some im­me­di­ate is­sues and not stop the rot. If we are to rid our­selves of this cul­ture be­queathed to us by the racists, colo­nial­ists and slavers of the past, we must also radically change the sys­tem. Some be­lieve that needs to be a so­cial­ist trans­for­ma­tion, but not ev­ery­one would agree with that. The rad­i­cal re­forms that are needed should be made into a min­i­mum pro­gramme that work­ers, the poor and the black middle class could put for­ward to be sup­ported by all South Africans.

Rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion can be de­scribed as pro­cesses and ac­tions that lead to a qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive change in patterns of eco­nomic own­er­ship, em­ploy­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties on a sus­tain­able ba­sis, favour­ing the his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged and their de­scen­dants. Rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion should cre­ate more jobs and bet­ter jobs, higher growth and more eq­ui­tably shared growth. The ma­jor­ity of the wealth should be in the hands of the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple, in eq­ui­table, fair and just race, class, gen­der and dis­abil­ity terms. While gov­ern­ment has made strides in ad­dress­ing poverty and ba­sic ser­vices, the ev­i­dence over­whelm­ingly shows that th­ese poli­cies and pro­grammes do not go far enough to en­sure that we live in a so­ci­ety that gives life and mean­ing to our Con­sti­tu­tion. What is needed, there­fore, are poli­cies that

TALK TO US What poli­cies do you think must change so that poor and his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple pros­per?

en­sure: The speedy trans­fer of land to those who are land­less; The cre­ation of jobs for those who are un­em­ployed; The clos­ing of the earn­ings or wage gap; The trans­fer of skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to those who do not have them;

The cre­ation of own­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties in en­ter­prises at var­i­ous lev­els in the econ­omy; and

A far greater and wider so­cial safety net. Some ex­am­ples of the way things could be done dif­fer­ently are as fol­lows:

1. In­stead of con­sid­er­ing dis­pos­ses­sion, all land could be taken back by gov­ern­ment and leased to those who use it. A limit should be set for pri­vate use.

2. Our coun­try needs far more peo­ple to de­liver ser­vices, and the hous­ing and infrastructure back­log alone could employ most of the un­em­ployed. Gov­ern­ment needs to set up a hous­ing fund through the Post Of­fice bank and en­cour­age sav­ing and in­vest­ment in this, through tax and other incentives, to fund the 2.5 mil­lion homes we need, and it must en­sure they are built within 10 years.

3. Gov­ern­ment needs to en­sure that a tar­get for the wage or earn­ings gap is set – for ex­am­ple, 10 to one – and mea­sure progress to­wards this over a fixed pe­riod.

4. All ed­u­ca­tion from preschool to univer­sity should be paid for by the state. Those who earn, for ex­am­ple, R250 000 a year should be ex­pected to contribute to their chil­dren’s fees on a pro­gres­sive slid­ing scale. All com­pa­nies should be obliged to give a place to one in­tern for every 10 peo­ple they employ.

5. All new en­ter­prises set up should be made to cre­ate an own­er­ship op­por­tu­nity for their work­ers, and black work­ers should re­ceive a fur­ther own­er­ship op­por­tu­nity of twice the amount of white work­ers. All ex­ist­ing busi­nesses must com­mit to the same prin­ci­ple and work to­wards this tar­get over a five-year pe­riod.

6. The ba­sic in­come grant must be im­ple­mented, and so­cial grants and pen­sions must be in­creased. A com­pen­sa­tion grant must also be cre­ated to en­sure that those who were dis­crim­i­nated against in the past are given the re­dress they de­serve. This could be given in a num­ber of ways – as a monthly pay­ment, as a tax in­cen­tive or a com­bi­na­tion of both.

No doubt, th­ese ideas will be crit­i­cised, but they are an at­tempt at pro­mot­ing a dis­cus­sion. Others will have many more and bet­ter ideas. It is now long over­due for an eco­nomic sum­mit to take place and for a new so­cial com­pact to be ne­go­ti­ated to en­sure that the shared growth we need hap­pens. Any per­son who ar­gues that it can’t be done is sim­ply of no value to the de­bate. We ei­ther do this, or face un­told neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

Dex­ter is a mem­ber of the ANC

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