Put economy first, not ideologies

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni
Image: Esa Alexander

The National Treasury or, more specifically, finance minister Tito Mboweni caught many by surprise on Tuesday when he published a set of economic reform proposals.

The paper titled "Economic transformation, inclusive growth, and competitiveness: Towards an economic strategy for South Africa" is bound to spark a heated debate about the country's economic direction.

Although those who follow such matters closely were expecting Mboweni to present a strategy document proposing how the country would overcome the current economic crisis, few thought he'll do so so soon and make it public even before it has been tabled before the cabinet.

It may be a reflection of Mboweni's frustration with how slow President Cyril Ramaphosa has dealt with economic questions, but it could also be an indication that the situation has become so dire that it makes no sense to delay just observe government protocols.

Whatever may be the reason, the document is an important intervention that many have been crying for over the past few months as our political elite seemed too consumed by its never-ending factional battles while unemployment; inequality and poverty were increasing and the economy is growing at a very slow pace.

The strategy document proposes a series of policy interventions that, its drafters believe, would lead to sustainable long-run growth and economic prosperity. Among the reforms mooted in the document is the unbundling of Eskom to allow for the creation of "an independent transmission company", the introduction of private sector operators in ports and rail and making it easy for new entrants to make it in highly-regulated industries such as banking and telecommunications.

Many of these proposed reforms are not new, some are even in the National Development Plan. However ideological differences among stakeholders - especially business and organised labour - have often left them still-borne.

Government indecisiveness on contentious policy issues have also meant that potentially good proposals went without being implemented. Hopefully this time around the parties will put ideology on the back banner and consider each proposal on purely whether it can help us get out of the dark economic hole we are in.

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