Economics skills and security – Pillars of progress

South Africa as a whole, including the Western Cape, has not been able to achieve the targeted average 5.4% per annum gross domestic product growth rate since the launch of the National Development Plan in 2012. Anything close to 5% was last seen before the 2008 worldwide financial collapse. In the main what then constrained the economic growth of South Africa was the failure to develop economic planning and execution teams across the state machinery.

Macroeconomic policy formulation, modelling, and detailed planning, lack skills, in-depth and relevant economic data. That opens the door for thumb sucking by all state players in the economic arena. Most economic advisers across all spheres of the state are mere appendages and no real economic work is being done.

To replenish and create sufficient capacity in the economics sphere of the state, the presidency and national treasury must authorise the creation of a full technocratic arm of the state in charge of all policy, planning and execution. Somebody needs to be the chief investment
officer of South Africa with full powers to press the accelerator.

It must be clear how relevant data will be obtained and centralised. The SA Revenue Service, Reserve Bank, Stats SA Development Bank of Southern Africa, Industrial Development Corporation of SA, business bankers and many other agencies,  have to feed data into central repositories that are fully searchable and within easy reach of all planning and research institutions and universities.

Universities such as the University of Pretoria must be charged with making sure all skills relevant to modelling the macro-economy of South Africa are in hand and are replenished and enhanced every year. Vacancies must be anticipated and filled on time. Other universities and financial institutions can also
partner and cover other subsets of data and modelling. This must be linked to specialised and sector specific data,  modelling, planning and execution.

The Agricultural Research Council, working with relevant universities, can cover all aspects of agriculture. That pattern would have to be followed in
supply chain, logistics and transport to ensure the efficient movement of goods and people for the purpose of creating widespread economic development in South Africa and within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Presently the economic development units of all provinces and municipalities do not have full datasets to model their economies and do evidence-based economic development planning.

To make sure the data, models, and plans result in execution of economic development, provincial and municipal economic development units must have open communication and deal with all financial institutions, innovation institutions that may need commercialisation of their new products, venture capitalists and transaction advisers.

The collapse of the security cluster has increased the cost of doing business and undermined the country’s asset base and rate of economic development. There has been an unmitigated stripping of infrastructure for telecommunications, railways, and electricity distribution networks. Illegal Eskom connections and all other non-technical losses cost Eskom R22-billion a year. That says nothing about the economic losses accruing to property owners and local businesses undermined by the vandalised Eskom infrastructure.

It is the duty of the state to prevent all these losses through local police, empowered peace officers,  community police forums and properly deputised security companies with full powers of arrest. This must be accompanied by competent and well-trained prosecutors and investigators to ensure high conviction rates.

The railway infrastructure to support mining, agriculture, imports, and exports of all kinds has been seriously undermined by vandalism and long-term
under-investment by the state.

Public private partnerships are available and need to support an economic growth rate between 5% and 15% to keep up with other fast developing countries and eradicate poverty in SA.

This must go hand in hand with comprehensive risk management to counter any vandalism and terrorism in the transport sector. Today it is becoming increasingly impossible to run a bus company, or a road freight or trucking company because of open and blatant extortion, murder, robbery, arson and kidnapping of clients, operators and company directors or their families.

There is no country that prospers when the mafia groupings are allowed to operate freely and in partnership with politicians. The hijacking of lands and buildings is often perpetrated by slum lords, municipal councillors, corrupt police, and politicians of various types. All that need the re-establishment of law and order. That is another pillar of progress.


  • Swana is a political analyst, economist and a member of the 70s Group

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