“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike,” Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the US, once said. When Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni released his Treasury’s plan for SA’s economic turnaround, there has been instant resistance to many of the suggestions.
Those who either dislike Mboweni or feel they had no hand in drafting the document are opposing it.
One of the most predictable things about South Africa is that it matters not who the finance minister is, they are always viewed as more than friends of big business. Trevor Manuel, Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan have all been lumped together as being in the pockets of “white monopoly capital”. Same with Mboweni.
There is not much of an attempt to examine the specifics of his proposed plan for an economic turnaround, but much emphasis is placed on the “lack of consultation” in the drafting. The biggest problem with exhaustive consultation is that the tidal wave of the global economy does not wait for democratic processes to unfold, and by the time proper consultation is completed the plan will be obsolete.
All experts agree. South Africa’s economy has stagnated. Unemployment is at an all-time high and something needs to be done urgently. And that’s what the minister of finance has done: responded to the urgency of the situation and released a document which makes a lot of suggestions to get the economy going.
The government does not have the luxury of time. Economic hardships are very real and present for the majority of South Africans. The “new dawn” that has been threatening to break since the new administration took over cannot be delayed any longer. It cannot be business as usual if real change is to be made.
The unions have made the usual noises about “neo-liberal” tendencies and how Mboweni is running his department like it’s a super department riding roughshod over every other minister (including the president). We’ve seen and heard all this before. Exactly the same criticism was levelled at Gordhan.
The problem with responding to this kind of criticism is that it achieves exactly what it is designed to do in the first place: delay the real work in getting the economy going. The turnaround document has 77 pages of real, tangible suggestions and, instead of focusing the country’s energies into moaning about the process, the unions would do well to engage the document itself.
The 29% of the unemployed population out there couldn’t care less about whether unions were consulted or not in the creation of a job opportunity. What matters to them is the availability of the opportunity.
The best thing that could happen for SA’s economy right now is decisive leadership. The president fully supported the turnaround document (with his usual diplomatic style) and it will be the beginning of the turnaround. What will be left will be the details. Details are not cast in stone. They can be amended while the plan is in motion.
Tito might not be everyone’s cup of tea but he has done the right thing to get the ball rolling. South Africa needs it.