Is the government working in its own interest?
The public bears the brunt as delayed and inflexible policymaking impedes service delivery
In whose interest is the government governing the country?
The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that electricity users, who have been affected by the power crisis, can now install their own generation capacity up to 100MW should be welcomed as a significant development.
The issue for me though is why it has taken so long. This is a decision that should have been announced at the 2018 state of the nation address at least. This is not the only issue where policy is failing the country.
The rationale behind decentralised energy generation was evident as long ago as 2006.
The science of climate change and its effect on people’s lives has been acknowledged in SA as far back as the 1996 constitution. But despite this acknowledgment and codification in our constitution, our energy minister still proudly announces commitment to the fossil fuel era, the results of which are devastating for people living in Mpumalanga.
Policymaking in our country is never proactive, primarily because it is driven by vested interests of rent seekers.
Another example of this challenge of poor policymaking is a looming disaster in the water sector. The minister of water & sanitation announced recently that R10bn was stolen or could not be accounted for. The dysfunctional model of water provision has been demonstrated year in and year out over the past 20 years, but instead of creating a new model as advocated in the Master Plan of 2018, a centralised model of water services provision is now being considered. All the water boards are now going to be consolidated into a new super agency under the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority agency.
The current model, which has not worked, says that water services provision should be the preserve of state-appointed agencies. The failure of this model has been acknowledged by everyone including the government, but instead of creating flexibility in the water services provision sector we are heading for centralisation and maybe centralisation of corruption. This is a formula for disaster in a sector that is even more critical than energy provision. Without water, people die and economies cannot grow.
We do not need to have another crisis in water as a result of poor policymaking. Is somebody listening out there? Our government has a strong relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Despite its commitment to state capitalism, China is one of the most flexible economies when it comes to experimenting with different models of goods and services production and provision. Why can’t we be flexible and try different models of service delivery for the sake of the long-suffering poor people of our country, most of whom are of African origin? Or should we be asking the question: in whose interest is the government governing the country?
As if the above was not enough, Stats SA recently announced that youth unemployment, the extended definition, has skyrocketed to more than 70%.
In any other country an unemployment rate that high would have been treated as a crisis that would have elicited an extraordinary response from the government. A youth unemployment this high is an ominous prelude to some kind of Arab Spring uprising, which the country can ill afford having been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the circumstances we find ourselves, the president would be well advised to consider the advice of Ibn Khaldun, an Islamic scholar from Tunis who lived more than 600 years ago and is now regarded as the real father of economics and not Adam Smith, as we have been taught by the establishment. Khaldun’s advice to the rulers was emphatic with respect to what they should do.
Is the government prioritising, among others, the production of food, as suggested by Khaldun about 600 years ago, to feed the hungry and impoverished people of our country? No. Instead of stimulating productive capacity and capability in the country, the government is happy to award a 20-year contract at a hefty price for power generation from ships that does not stimulate local productive capacity billed as an emergency solution.
I thought I know what the word “emergency” means, but now we are led to believe that a 20-year contract is an emergency. One wonders in whose interest the award was made.
• Ramano is an entrepreneur in transition to a regenerative and sustainable future and PhD student in wisdom studies.
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