To my mind
“BE CAREFUL what you wish for,” Trevor Manuel replied when asked for his opinion about the Money Bill, which will give MPs the power to amend the Budget. It’s ironic that South Africa is considering this legislation at a time when, in the midst of chaos in which the world’s biggest and most respected markets have landed themselves, this country is being lauded even by the International Monetary Fund for its sensible monetary and fiscal policies and regulations that have largely protected it against the consequences of the misguided actions in countries such as the United States, Britain and most of Europe.
The absence of clear fiscally restrictive rules is one of the aspects of the proposed legislation that’s causing grave doubts among some commentators.
Though Manuel didn’t express opposition to the Bill he did warn it entailed great risks. He has reservations about whether Parliament in fact has the capacity to apply such legislation sensibly – legislation that stipulates the consequences of any proposed amendments to a Budget must be treated circumspectly and must be properly motivated.
If the Bill is approved in the current session it will mean Parliament will already be able to influence the next Budget.
With distinctly more leftist tenets emanating from the ruling party after the departure of former President Thabo Mbeki, and then some of his former Cabinet ministers and other disillusioned members under the leadership of Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa – who are in the process of forming a new party – the Bill could play into the hands of the populists who have far less regard for a market-orientated economic policy.
That could add fuel to the flames of those who couldn’t be bothered with the sober viewpoints Manuel expressed in his carefully worded mid-term Budget speech. For them, scoring points with “the people” over the short term is much higher on the agenda than the catastrophic long-term economic consequences of their short-sighted policy of liberally distributing alms to the poor.
That much was apparent at the recent ANC/Cosatu/SA Communist Party alliance summit, where far-reaching proposals about comprehensive social protection, among other things, were made: the kind of proposals that clearly indicate an unmistakable shift to the left.
Meanwhile, the small initial trickle of dissidents breaking away from the ANC is gathering momentum and becoming quite a sizeable flood. Many South Africans regard the subsequent possibility of an alternative to the strong dominant ruling party as the start of an exciting new phase in SA politics. For the first time, it looks as if the ANC will be facing real opposition.
However, for the stream to become an unstoppable torrent and to give the party a fair chance of succeeding a credible and charismatic leader is required who will inspire his followers – not only because they’re disillusioned with the “old” ANC but also because of a clearly outlined alternative policy.
If that doesn’t happen, the only result of the breakaway could be that the ruling party is simply left to decision-makers bent on perpetuating outdated ideologies. Be careful what you wish for... Indeed.