LETTER: UBS is misguided in upbeat take on expropriation
Debate has already hurt the economy, as Ramaphosa’s investment envoys have indicated
UBS’s belief that expropriation without compensation will be handled “sufficiently well” (Land seizures will be handled well, says UBS, January 14) is a poor substitute for assurance of prudent policy and competent implementation.
As a policy, expropriation without compensation is inimical to property rights and thus to investment. The expropriation without compensation “debate” has already hurt the economy — President Cyril Ramaphosa’s investment envoys have indicated as much.
In a best-case scenario, expropriation without compensation will impose a burden on the country’s prospects for some time until investors, domestic and foreign, determine that it is being undertaken “sufficiently well”.
Whether that will, in fact, be the case is an open question. Expropriation without compensation is propelled by profoundly political and ideological drivers; the lure of greater state discretion to intervene in ever more lucrative assets may prove tempting. We have long seen this in often counterproductive mining policy. Indeed, the ruling party’s recent affirmation that it will introduce a prescribed assets regime has significant and concerning implications for SA’s pension funds.
All of which suggests that expropriation without compensation undertaken “sufficiently well” is nevertheless a reckless turn of policy. While UBS, as a global concern, may be able to avoid the fallout from it, ordinary South Africans may not be so fortunate.
Project manager, Institute of Race Relations