It is clear that income inequality is an intractable problem in SA, but we can do something to alleviate the plight of the poor.
The most obvious, which can be accomplished with minimum effort, is to reduce voice and data costs — the poor spend disproportionately more of their income on communications.
Meaningful and efficiently managed incentives should be introduced to encourage investment to reduce unemployment. This must be done within a tight deadline, so no "bosberaads" are necessary.
Make it a requirement for listed companies to disclose the total compensation paid to their average employee versus their executives, and name and shame those where the disparity is egregious. This will soon be a requirement in the UK. Of itself this won’t do much to alleviate the problem, but it will send a powerful message.
The former finance minister said recently that R100bn is lost to corruption each year, which could have been used to bolster social grants. So with clean governance the plight of the poor could be significantly improved. The social grant system is a positive legacy of the ANC that is being destroyed by corruption and self-enrichment.
The level of corporate and individual taxation in SA is already too high, so little can be done there. Any further increase will paradoxically give rise to even less revenue being collected due to evasion, emigration and reduced investment.
Politicians, especially the DA and EFF, should not spend so much of their time undermining the government and running to court on service delivery issues.
Much more should be done to roll out e-learning, which is far less costly and might be a more effective method of learning. Data centres should be set up in rural areas to facilitate access by disadvantaged students. One of the founders of Google said a few years ago that in 15 years only 50% of traditional brick and mortar universities will still be in existence. Students should be encouraged not to enrol for liberal arts degrees. Up to 400,000 graduates are unemployed in SA, the vast majority from this cohort of graduates are liberal arts graduates.
It is essential that our citizens are trained to participate in the ever-evolving technological economy. Failure to do this will further exacerbate unemployment and undermine our competitiveness in the world.
Emeritus Prof David Rosenberg