Neels Blom Writer at large

Of all the scary things finance minister Tito Mboweni said in his medium-term budget policy speech last week, this was the worst: “We need to demolish the walls that exist between the public and private sector.” The notion is that a good relationship — one based on trust — between the government and business is good for the country and good for the economy. At first glance this appears to be true, if only because business tends to whine a lot about government hostility and its growth-killing brinkmanship. The trouble is, the clamour assumes that a good relationship — a trust relationship — is desirable. Really? Business wants business to prevail; the government wants (in conflation) the state to prevail. This is the basis of distrust, and it is a good thing, because the relationship between the parties is a turf war. The government wields regulation, and business has the constitution for a shield, while parliament writes the rules of engagement. In a war, either party would be daft ...

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