Cyril Ramaphosa gave a lengthy speech recently, setting out the DA’s economic policy. To be fair, he didn’t call it that. He called it A New Deal for Jobs, Growth and Transformation. But there is nothing new about it.
The DA has consistently called for economic policy that has jobs and growth at its centre, because that is the only way to lift 30 million South Africans out of poverty. We have consistently held that growth and transformation are mutually reinforcing, rather than conflicting, objectives. So even though Ramaphosa’s new deal is somewhat secondhand, we welcome it heartily.
It is wonderful that there is a growing consensus at the centre of SA’s politics around the DA’s approach to economic policy and growth. This is the unity of purpose we have been pursuing. We want South Africans to come together around the values of Constitutionalism and an open economy that delivers for all and not just the elite. We want South Africans to unite behind economic policy that focuses on the 30 million poorest South Africans rather than on enriching a small number of black industrialists.
So this public endorsement from a leading ANC presidential candidate is gratifying. At the Daily Maverick’s The Gathering last week, Pravin Gordhan emphatically denied any common ground with DA policy, but was unable to point out major differences. From our side, we’re certainly happy to be in the “same Whatsapp Group” as anyone in SA who understands that job creation through an unrelenting focus on inclusive growth and investment is the only way to sustainably transform our economy and society.
As Ramaphosa acknowledges, this requires us to commit to stable, investor-friendly policies, to invest heavily in infrastructure and skills, and to put small and medium enterprises at the centre of our policies, since they have the highest potential to create jobs. These are policies that have led to growth and employment where we govern. This is why the Western Cape has achieved faster job creation in the past decade than has the rest of the country. Our policy approach has been tried and tested and shown to work. We believe strongly in it, and we want to see it implemented as widely as possible.
As Ramaphosa conceded, rather ironically, we need to move from looking to create a small number of super elite to an economy in which the state’s role is to create an enabling environment so that entrepreneurial activity can flourish, creating sustainable, private-sector jobs on a massive scale.
He recognizes that this means aggressive support for SME’s by massively reducing their cost of doing business, through policy and regulatory reform. It means prioritizing sectors with the greatest potential for job creation, such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining. It means promoting renewable energy. It means harnessing ongoing urbanization to improve access to land and housing ownership, services and economic opportunities. It means land reform that includes systems to improve land productivity, and greater support for small-scale black farmers.
So much music to our ears: He says we must maintain fiscal discipline and reject populist projects. We must promote export-oriented businesses, and local procurement from a wider variety of smaller businesses. SOE’s must be properly governed and operated for the benefit of the public, and private capital must be considered.
The DA has been consistent in this policy approach for years. Ramaphosa is getting to the table somewhat late, but better late than never. It is unfortunate, though, that he and Gordhan and their faction within the ANC have been legitimizing policies that serve to enrich a connected elite at the expense of the many, for many years now. This has taken South Africa backwards, increasing poverty and enabling corruption and state capture to take root and become deeply entrenched.
And herein lies the most important difference between the DA and the ANC. The DA will be able to actually implement these policies. We already do so where we govern, which is why DA governments have lower unemployment and higher growth. Effective implementation requires a capable state. The DA seeks to recruit the best people for public service, who will actually implement policy. Appointments are not a reward for comradeship.
The ANC is so deeply infested with corruption, patronage and factionalism, that it is literally paralysed. Ramaphosa has been the second most powerful person in the country for some years now and under his watch South Africa has gone backwards.
Point number 10 in Ramaphosa’s 10-point plan is to confront corruption and state capture. He states unequivocally that it is “necessary to take immediate steps to remove from positions of responsibility those individuals who have facilitated state capture”. I couldn’t agree more. Roll on 2019.