New leader must con­vert old goals

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis -

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s stim­u­lus pack­age has been met with ev­ery­thing from cau­tious op­ti­mism to down­right scep­ti­cism, but very lit­tle out­right con­vic­tion that it is the an­swer to the coun­try’s eco­nomic woes.

This is prob­a­bly be­cause much of what was in the plan has been an­nounced in a sim­i­lar guise be­fore. The re­newed fo­cus on in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, how­ever pos­i­tive, sounds re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to pre­vi­ous prom­ises, bar the launch of the new South African In­fra­struc­ture Fund. And, as South Africans bit­terly learned un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, those pre­vi­ous grand in­vest­ment projects were co-opted by pa­tron­age net­works to siphon bil­lions out of the fis­cus.

The Oc­to­ber ad­just­ments bud­get is meant to be where the coun­try will get the nitty-gritty — such as where R50-bil­lion will be scrounged from and redi­rected to­wards items such as school san­i­ta­tion. The R400-bil­lion odd that will be con­cen­trated in the In­fra­struc­ture Fund is, it ap­pears, what is al­ready in the bud­get for the com­ing three years.

Rat­ing’s agency Fitch has pointed out that it is not clear how the fund will op­er­ate or whether it will in­crease the state’s con­tin­gent li­a­bil­i­ties.

What is clear is that there is no room to ma­noeu­vre and very tough trade­offs will have to be made come Oc­to­ber.

But Ramaphosa has be­gun the im­mensely dif­fi­cult task of ad­dress­ing cor­rup­tion — start­ing with sweep­ing board changes at state-owned en­ti­ties and restor­ing their fi­nances. He has promised pol­icy cer­tainty, a long-stand­ing headache for busi­ness and in­vestors, start­ing with the new min­ing char­ter an­nounced on Thurs­day.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween this plan and oth­ers is ar­guably Ramaphosa, rather than Zuma un­der cap­ture. He has to get his en­tire Cabi­net and the ruling ANC to pull in the same di­rec­tion to make it work. Given that it is head­ing into an elec­tion year, it is a tough one in­deed.

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