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SA economy: Time is depleted

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The core problem for the South African economy remains steps to boost economic growth, in the short and long haul. The credit rating agencies have made it clear that this is the game breaker in their decision later this year whether they should call further downgrade South Africa’s sovereign debt, causing sub-investment status for the foreign currency-denominated debt, as well as local currency-denominated debt also coming to risk.

In the IMF’s recently-released Article IV Consultation Report, the conviction that economic growth is vital to resolving South Africa’s various challenges echoes through it being a refrain.

But then South Africa doesn’t need to pursue higher growth merely to please the ratings agencies and the IMF ? the plight of that citizens demands it. The main dependence on addressing an unemployment rate of 27% as well as its concomitant problems of poverty and inequality is always to grow the economy.

What is clear in the pronouncements of each credit ratings agencies additionally, the IMF is that as they were generally thrilled with the new-found urgency in the South African authorities post Nenegate as well as the show of solidarity between government, business and labour, these are searching for action, and quickly. Just four months left prior to a rating agencies make their calls, time is running out.

That this is certainly acknowledged with the Minister of Finance unfortunately provides cold comfort. Mr Gordhan has, by way of example, not managed for getting his way when using the leadership of SARS along with the SAA, being openly defied by President Zuma, although the Hawks are nevertheless ignoring his shoulder.

One can just speculate with regards to the deficiency of visible progress. The possible lack of concrete action may be due simply to the municipal elections plus the desire for campaigning (perhaps more so than before because of the elections being more hotly contested), creating a disruption to get things done, and therefore in the event the elections are off the beaten track we will see a burst of energy on government’s side.

Or it could be a renewed demonstration of too little focus and proper prioritisation, as a result of the current administration with regards to denial for the dire state in the economyf. (Inside of a speech inside Nelson Mandela Metro on 23 July President Zuma “bashed economists plus the media for reporting that the economy was deteriorating? saying the land was fine”, as reported by Business Day.)

However, one cannot but wonder if the catch is no more fundamental one. Both ratings agencies and also the IMF have expressed their satisfaction with the involvement of your private sector in locating a solution to South Africa’s growth conundrum and appear that is expected it to experience a decisive role later on. Now you ask , if thez government (rather than only the Pravin Gordhan faction) is ready allowing an individual can sector to try out such a dominant role.

Repeated accusations against “white monopoly capital” usually do not produce a good relationship between business and government. But more fundamentally it brings into take part in the whole perception of a South African developmental state when using the state as the leading force, and whether that could form an insurmountable obstacle to cooperation between business and government.

Political analysts seem to be in agreement that your ANC is not the unified broad political movement it once claimed to generally be, which it has lost its cohesion and this as opposed to for alliance of entities with a common reputation fighting apartheid (mainly the ANC, SACP and Cosatu) it now represents an amount of factions fighting the other person to realize top of the hand. However, the direction the place that the ruling party look like moving could ironically make it easier to achieve ideological unity and thus reach consensus start by making it less compelling to look at fringe opinions into account.

When the Zuma administration arrived to power last year it rewarded its supporters (as politicians are liable to do!) by allocating key economic functions for many years. The SACP reached control the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the possiblity to push its ideology, and a new department (Economic Development) was made for a vehicle in which Cosatu could channel its economic thinking.

With the SACP’s influence in government more likely greatly diminished and time possibly disappearing altogether simply because of its fall-out with President Zuma, and Cosatu much diminished in stature after its split, greater ideological consistency inside the ANC, in particular intended for the respective roles of markets as well as the state throughout the market, has started to become a real possibility.

But what is going to a whole new consensus mimic? Under what ideological umbrella will a reformed ANC unite? How the ANC’s desire for getting economic transformation (being increasingly pushed along from the progress the EFF is making) be accommodated in its economic ideology?

Judging by developments these days by far the most likely result is a gentle drift towards a variety of state capitalism, that have an easy complement the thinking behind a developmental state (taking into account how the pre-1994 SA economy already contained strong aspects of state capitalism). The South African government’s desire for China and Russia as heroines also points during this direction.

In his recent essay on state capitalism, Joshua Kurlantzick studies a lot of avowed state capitalists, while pointing out a large number of other countries display factors of state capitalism. A list includes from inefficient state capitalists including Iran, Russia and Venezuela, to people who can be considered highly efficient, e.g. Singapore, Norway and Malaysia. Where political systems come to mind, they cover anything from autocracies for example Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, to democracies which include Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Kurlantzick concludes that “the range of state capitalists testifies into the model’s adaptability, as well as economic success of various that is prominent state capitalists demonstrate the model’s strengths”. However, he emphasises the vulnerability of state capitalism to corruption, cronyism and patronage, and its particular negative implications for efficiency.

Kurlantzick categorises Nigeria as leaning towards inefficient state capitalism although nearby the upper end of democratic practice, as judged via the yardstick of responsiveness to popular sentiment. This is certainly somewhat anomalous, perhaps because of the still weak foundations of democracy resulting in a leaning towards an autocratic personality-driven model of government. Kurlantzick sounds the warning that “the most?autocratic state capitalists are likely to eventually stifle entrepreneurship, go after their very own people only to support a little pair of leaders, neglect to encourage effective management by economic policymakers, and undermine their unique growth”. Africa must take note.

Furthermore, no country is free to adopt whatever economy perhaps it will prefer without asking itself where they can fit into the dominant world system. As Georgi Derluguian observed in his overview of the collapse of the Ussr along with its effects on other communist countries, “all communist states eventually reverted to capitalism”, this is because “socialism a single country won’t last unless the complete capitalist world strategy is replaced by another historical system where capital accumulation isn’t the paramount priority”.

As for Russia, it isn’t unthinkable the Russian economy could collapse on time even with its transformation simply because of its failure in building a diversified economy that will be in the international space. China’s examining to your greater role for markets within the economy can be a further style of a country being compelled to experiment with through the rules of the world system if this would like to make use of it.

South Africa’s policymakers therefore have got to realise they’re also bound through the constraints imposed with the world system, whether they prefer it or not. To imagine that closer ties with all the likes of China and Russia will somehow have an escape route because of this constraint is unrealistic since they themselves are bound about it.

State capitalism is not really inevitably bad, as demonstrated with the illustration of Singapore, as long as the exact same efficiency standards apply just as in which you sector and also a approach is found to cooperate while using latter. But how the South African government need to get its act together quickly and provide concrete, visible results is glaringly obvious.


Joshua Kurlanzick: State Capitalism. The return of Statism is Transforming the earth. Oxford University Press. 2016.

Georgi Derluguian: What Communism Was, in Immanuel Wallerstein, Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derluguian and Craig Calhoun: Does Capitalism Use a Future? Oxford University Press. 2013.

Jac Laubscher, Economic Advisor: Sanlam Limited

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