We all know parents whose children can do no wrong. They are second in annoyance only to parents who never appreciate their kids’ innate grace and perceptiveness. That said, it’s hard to be objective about one’s own offspring. That’s true about the South African economy, too. In some circles, both right and left, if you say anything at all is going well you’ll be trashed as an apologist. Meanwhile, some observers highlight only SA’s economic achievements and painstakingly ignore anything that is off message. Underlying both of these approaches is an unwillingness to deal with the complexity of modern economies, which generate contradictory outcomes, lots of data and few silver bullets. The fact is that since 1994 some things have gone very right, while others have gone really wrong. Moreover, most economic outcomes are not a result of the government policies, which are tightly constrained by global and international trends. In practice, growth and investment in SA correlate most clo...

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