BMF ‘must take the lead’
Speakers at employment equity conference say SA is shutting down development, with no significant investment
THREE influential speakers attending the Black Management Forum (BMF) conference yesterday agreed the country had been “shutting down development”.
Economist Thabi Leoka, Competition Commission commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele and Wits lecturer and economist Chris Malikane said disinvestment was at a high level, similar to where it was at the height of apartheid in the ’80s and ’90s
Left-leaning Malikane, who kickstarted the discussion on how the BMF could achieve inclusive growth and employment equity, said if the forum did not take the lead to capture the state and direct it on transformational policies, nothing would be achieved.
Malikane said he was not representing the minister of finance but was speaking in his personal capacity and as a professor of economics at Wits.
“We have a problem of shutting down the development of the country. The country is taking backward steps towards the ’90s and ’80s when disinvestment was high because of fear.
“There is a lot of policy uncertainty and we are back to the ’90s. The government debt ratio is rising as it did then.”
He said it was discouraging to realise there was no significant investment in the past 23 years.
“We are lost. Poverty levels are the same that we inherited in 1994.”
He said for blacks to properly belong in the inclusive economy, the BMF should first embark on “the process of policy capture because everyone is rushing to capture the state”.
“The policy adopted in 1996 is not the one the majority of South Africans voted for in 1994. South Africans voted for RDP policies, which are completely dead and replaced by many polices that don’t work,” he said.
Malikane said if groups such as BMF were not going to make radical economic transformation happen, “then it must kiss an inclusive economy goodbye”.
He said talking about the structure of economic ownership increases policy uncertainty. “For the state to be developmental the BMF needs to capture the state policy,” he said.
Malikane said the BMF must take into account that the state is contested by many players and groups like the BMF that “can’t stand on the side while others are practising their objective of capturing and protecting their interests”.
The state must be developmental if we want to achieve inclusive growth and radical economic transformation, he said. “The BMF must not be afraid to capture state power,” Malikane said.
He said he couldn’t understand why people didn’t implement radical economic transformation and change of ownership of the economy, instead of debating it. “We can’t celebrate foreignowned industries growing quickly because the chunk of profit made is not reinvested into the country.’’
Thabi Leoka, a powerhouse economist, said regulations and financial access were the main stumbling blocks holding back inclusive growth.
Bonakele also attacked government for not creating a friendlier market environment for local suppliers. “Concentration of the economy into particular sectors has cost the country dearly and as a result it hasn’t delivered the expected dividend for black people.’’
URGENT POLICY: Experts at the BMF gathering insisted that inclusive growth and transformation would become sterile in the absence of radical policy changes and significant investment in the economy.