TIM COHEN: The new competition bill is based on some dodgy numbers
SA's economy is not nearly as ‘concentrated’ as the government believes, and even if it were, this is not the way to fix it
That business in SA is highly concentrated is an article of faith, particularly in the ANC and in left-wing circles generally. The notion has even been endorsed to an extent by IMF and World Bank studies and goes unquestioned even among elements of professional and business groups. This week, parliament’s economic affairs portfolio committee approved the new Competition Amendment Bill, to much acclaim. The passing of the bill got me thinking about the notion of concentration, and the suppositions on which it is based. I’m suspicious because it is so at odds with my own experience reporting on business in SA, which I believe is constrained in parts, but highly competitive in others. It also fits so neatly with economic affairs minister Ebrahim Patel’s business-hostile orientation and his view that big, white business is deviously and maliciously preventing aspirant black business from emerging, and that this is the real crux of SA’s problems with high unemployment and stagnant econom...