At one overexposed level, the argument about black economic empowerment (BEE) is characterised by considerations about doing the right thing to foster equality and provide equal opportunity. BEE proponents are encouraged to use it as a marketing tool to hone their competitive edge. At a more crucial level, away from the hype and moral imperatives, are issues of how to stimulate higher growth that can lead to increased employment creation and more competition, and the longer-term outcome of increased empowerment and wealth creation for the previously disadvantaged. In this regard, a Treasury submission to the portfolio committee on trade and industry set out a series of important features of the economy. It asked four key questions: • Why do we need investment?; • Who funds government debt?; • Who funds corporates in SA?; and • Who owns companies in SA given the dependence on foreign and institutional funds? The Treasury’s note points to the need for circumspection on BEE, lest propo...

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