Sunday Times

Cyril’s tough truth is bet­ter than fan­tasy

- Andile Khu­malo Khu­malo is an en­tre­pre­neur and a CA (SA)

Noth­ing makes you ap­pre­ci­ate home more than trav­el­ling. While spend­ing a week with friends in Thai­land chas­ing an elu­sive white ball into a se­ries of holes, I missed the much-an­tic­i­pated live broad­cast of Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s stim­u­lus pack­age an­nounce­ment.

Thanks to YouTube, I was able to catch up and also hear the so-called ex­perts re­act to Thuma Mina’s mes­sage to the coun­try.

As much as the Vusi Mahlasela mu­sic makes you feel at home as soon as you step on a home­ward-bound air­craft, I cer­tainly did not miss the “talk­ing down” that we South Africans love to give our­selves.

Al­most ev­ery­one I spoke to about the “stim­u­lus pack­age” an­nounce­ment af­ter ar­riv­ing back had some­thing neg­a­tive to say.

Many said it wasn’t re­ally a stim­u­lus pack­age be­cause it was merely a repri­ori­ti­sa­tion of money we al­ready have.

Oth­ers said it sounded like no more than the re­ver­sal of bad pol­icy de­ci­sions and the fix­ing of some ob­vi­ous mis­steps by the pre­vi­ous Ja­cob Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The con­sis­tent mes­sage was a neg­a­tive one, once again proph­esy­ing an im­mi­nent ar­maged­don for our econ­omy and coun­try.

I don’t know about you, but I much pre­fer the truth to a sweet lie aimed at se­duc­ing me into a false state of eu­pho­ria — es­pe­cially when the sit­u­a­tion is this dire.

All that Ramaphosa did was tell us the truth, and lay out some of the ac­tions his gov­ern­ment plans to take in order to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion — a far cry from the other guy who kept re­mind­ing us of 1994 and telling us “we have a good story to tell”, when, in fact, our re­cent ver­sion of the story was pretty de­press­ing.

“Our gov­ern­ment has lim­ited fis­cal space to in­crease spend­ing or bor­row­ing,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is im­per­a­tive that we make sure that the re­sources that we do have are used to the great­est ef­fect … we do not have the fis­cal space to pour money in the econ­omy … we have to re­sort to repri­ori­tis­ing our spend­ing and bud­get within the cur­rent fis­cal frame­work.”

In lay­man’s terms, the pres­i­dent, in his ca­pac­ity as the head of this home, told his fam­ily: “Hello guys. We are broke. There is no more money com­ing. I am not get­ting a raise. I am not get­ting a bonus. And I can­not bor­row any more money from the bank.

“Our only op­tion is to cut down on spend­ing to re­al­lo­cate the funds to the most im­por­tant items.

“So some things are go­ing to change around here, so that we con­tinue to live a good life, un­til such time as Daddy can get that raise, bonus or ex­tra credit. OK, that’s it. Din­ner is served.”

The pres­i­dent went on to elab­o­rate on his ideas about the im­me­di­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties we have to help deal with this sad re­al­ity. He told us that the cabinet had al­ready ap­proved changes to visa re­quire­ments to try to stim­u­late both busi­ness and leisure tourism.

He told us that the cabinet had ap­proved the re­vised Min­ing Char­ter, in an at­tempt to bring some pol­icy cer­tainty to one of the few labour-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries we still have.

He promised that, in a mat­ter of weeks, the gov­ern­ment would ini­ti­ate the process of al­lo­cat­ing high-de­mand ra­dio spec­trum to en­able li­cens­ing — again in the in­ter­ests of reignit­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in a growth sec­tor that car­ries huge so­cioe­co­nomic div­i­dends.

Then, fi­nally, he told us that he would take some money from else­where — R400bn, to be ex­act — and move it into in­fra­struc­ture.

I pre­fer to live in a fam­ily like this, where dad comes out straight and tells me I will still be go­ing to school, even if it’s not the same one all my friends go to.

I will still have lunch money, but per­haps less than be­fore.

I will still have ba­sic clothes, but I can for­get about those new Adidas sneak­ers — be­cause we need to re­pair the roof be­fore the rainy sea­son hits.

I, too, would choose a dry bed over new sneak­ers.

“Ig­nit­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity re­quires part­ner­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Ramaphosa said.

“It must be a na­tional ef­fort in which all of us work to­gether to re­store our econ­omy to growth in the im­me­di­ate term, and pre­pare the ground for sus­tain­able, in­clu­sive growth into our fu­ture.”

Let us stop re­sist­ing the truth, ac­cept our re­al­ity and fo­cus on so­lu­tions.

I pre­fer to live in a fam­ily like this

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