To my mind

Finweek English Edition - - Hell To Pay To My Mind Companies In This Issue -

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 colleenn@fin­ 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.