BEE USED AS LI­CENCE TO ENTRENCH MO­NOP­O­LIES

CityPress - - Business - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­press.co.za

BEE is be­ing used by big busi­ness as a li­cence to entrench mo­nop­o­lies and has not been sig­nif­i­cantly ef­fec­tive in trans­form­ing so­ci­ety as com­pli­ance of­ten means buy­ing the re­ten­tion of the sta­tus quo.

This is ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Si­mon Roberts at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, who was speak­ing dur­ing the dis­cus­sion fo­rum of the re­cently launched Trans­for­ma­tion Au­dit 2016 re­port, ti­tled Op­por­tu­nity for Change: The pri­vate sec­tor’s role in in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­dress­ing the small crowd as part of a four-per­son panel this week, the for­mer chief econ­o­mist and man­ager of the pol­icy and re­search di­vi­sion at the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion said that many com­pa­nies were not hav­ing sleep­less nights over BEE.

“You can’t blame white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal for car­ry­ing on do­ing what they are do­ing. It’s like say­ing if we adopt good [soc­cer] ref­er­ees and peo­ple dive [in a soc­cer match] why are they div­ing? They are div­ing be­cause they want to win the match. They are div­ing be­cause they get away with it. But who writes the rules? It’s com­pa­nies. BEE was a com­pli­ance process, it’s a rules­based process. You buy com­pli­ance with BEE. You ac­tu­ally buy the sta­tus quo, if you do this then you carry on as be­fore. This came up in many com­pe­ti­tion cases, SAB used it all the time: ‘We are do­ing BEE so let us carry on mo­nop­o­lis­ing the whole econ­omy,’” he said, adding that SAB was merely play­ing by the rules like any other mo­nop­o­lis­ing multi­na­tional com­pany.

Roberts said that the BEE struc­ture al­lowed mo­nop­o­lies and also neg­a­tively af­fected the cre­ation of black in­dus­tri­al­ists as some com­pa­nies did not see the need to cre­ate black in­dus­tri­al­ists if they were al­ready complying with BEE codes.

He also warned that chang­ing own­er­ship would not change the struc­ture of the econ­omy.

An­other pan­el­list and co-au­thor of the au­dit doc­u­ment, Mzuk­isi Qobo, who is also an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, said the rul­ing ANC had run out of ideas on solv­ing the coun­try’s prob­lems.

“There are also de­fects in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal ar­range­ment, ie, the fact that the ANC which is in gov­ern­ment has run out of ideas about so­cial and eco­nomic change. There’s no clear eco­nomic pol­icy think­ing that speaks to the com­plex­ity of the chal­lenges that we face,” he said, point­ing out that busi­ness lead­er­ship in the coun­try had also proven to be con­tent with min­i­mal­ist short-term pro­grammes such as cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment and that it lacked imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity.

Qobo did not spare Ned­lac, the body com­pris­ing gov­ern­ment, busi­ness, labour and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, and said the in­sti­tu­tion needed re­vamp­ing and was, in its cur­rent form, not help­ful in nav­i­gat­ing the coun­try for­ward.

He also said dif­fi­cult ques­tions needed to be asked about the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and its suit­abil­ity.

Pan­el­list Christo­pher Woods, who is an econ­o­mist at Trade and In­dus­trial Pol­icy Strate­gies, raised eye­brows when he pro­posed that us­ing 30% of gov­ern­ment rev­enue for di­rect cash trans­fers to in­di­vid­u­als earn­ing less than R9 600 could help tackle chal­lenges faced by the coun­try’s so­cial wel­fare sys­tem.

He said trans­fers of lump sums would en­cour­age peo­ple to ei­ther fur­ther their stud­ies or start busi­nesses.

Though he ad­mit­ted that it was a pro­posal that would prob­a­bly never see the light of day, Woods said the core prin­ci­ple was the ques­tion of what was more vi­able.

Roberts sup­ported the prin­ci­ple be­hind Woods’ propo­si­tion, sug­gest­ing that gov­ern­ment should con­sider giv­ing in­di­vid­u­als around R200 000 in ex­change for a spe­cific pe­riod of na­tional ser­vice.

“If you give peo­ple R200 000, they may choose not to go to univer­sity, they may choose to go and start a busi­ness,” Roberts said.

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