To my mind
SOME OF THE REACTIONS to the news that South Africa has also succumbed to the worldwide recession were more shocking than the numbers themselves. Treasury director-general Lesetja Kganyago’s proclamation that “the good news is we’re not alone” attests either to astounding ignorance of the economy or at best to a doleful inability to think on his feet and deliver sensible commentary.
That the South African economy is inextricably tied to the world economy was undeniably clear from, among other things, the 32,2% decrease in mining; an effect of the worldwide slump in resources prices as a result of a worldwide decrease in demand – due, in turn, to spending being curtailed on all fronts. We’re also to a large extent vulnerable to the resultant extreme fluctuations in resources’ exports. We’re in a predicament precisely because we’re not alone…
What sounded like an extremely frivolous remark – that nobody at the Treasury wanted to commit suicide following the release of the GDP figures – did little to foster trust in its most senior official and his potential contribution to the debate on a recessionary environment and its attendant challenges in SA.
Just before confirming that this country had already experienced a recession during first quarter 2009, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana again lashed out at labour brokers. As early as March, Elias Monage, president of the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector (CAPES), voiced his concern about the minister equating labour brokerage to human trafficking. He then pointed out that millions of people depended on the salaries and wages of around 500 000 temporary workers and that those temporary workers are of critical importance to cyclical industries worth R28bn.
In reaction to the minister’s latest tirade, Richard Pike, CEO of the staffing group Adcorp, claimed a ban on labour brokerage could result in a million people losing their jobs. Pike told that a similar ban in Namibia led to 30% of all
COLLEEN NAUDÉ email@example.com contract workers losing their jobs.
The minister’s inability to realise that regulated labour brokers are necessary to help service the need arising from the cyclical nature of several industries – as exemplified by the building industry – is anything but reassuring.
This blinkered attitude falls into the same category as demands for so-called decent jobs (whatever that might mean), an emphasis on minimum wages and trade unions’ exhorting their members to demand unrealistically high wage increases amid the biggest worldwide economic crisis in 17 years.
Now more than ever SA needs leaders who can provide balanced direction based on economic realities. Cosatu’s calls for protectionist measures should be exposed by pointing out their shortsightedness and the long-term negative effects that would have on the economy.
It will be interesting to see to what extent Zuma’s Government will yield to such populist demands. Though one would like to give the new dispensation the benefit of the doubt, our new President’s recent appointment of two advisers did little to assuage doubts. In fact, it’s extremely worrying he should think that two of the worst ministers from the Mbeki era – Charles Nqakula, former minister of safety and security, and Mandisi Mpahlwa, who had been such a spectacular failure as minister of trade and industry – would, as political and economic adviser respectively, be able to contribute anything of value to a healthy debate.
For a country facing enormous challenges on both those fronts, such a lack of judgement on the part of its leader is very worrying.