Finance minister Tito Mboweni speaks during his budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town, on October 30, 2019. File photo: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM
Finance minister Tito Mboweni speaks during his budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town, on October 30, 2019. File photo: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM

Finance minister Tito Mboweni presented a predictably gloomy picture of our economy in his medium-term budget policy statement. 

Even though our constitution commits to improving the quality of life for all, he made it clear that “the growth outlook is far too low to support this vision”.

Sipho Pityana was correct (“Era of balancing profit and purpose is upon us”, October 24 2019) that it is time to “walk the talk” about investing in social value. But profit and purpose are not an “either/or” choice.

It is true that scandals like those at Steinhoff, KPMG, McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, EOH and SAP constitute the worst examples of corporate greed. But they occur when business lacks a clear sense of purpose, not because it is a default condition of the market economy. In fact, it is this lack of purpose that has contributed to the broader economic circumstances we find ourselves in, where growth has been unequal and, as a result, unsustainable.

Investing in the social good isn’t just a form of tax on corporate profits. When an entire potential market is unable to consume goods and services because it has not shared in economic growth, businesses have missed a critical step.

Businesses that have a clear sense of purpose to meaningfully develop SA are a solution to our own woes. By investing in social capital, businesses can create a sustainable environment that will deliver growth both now and in the future.

Mboweni reminded us that “we are all in this together”. Whichever way you look at it, things are not going to get better unless the government and business work together to generate the kind of social progress we need. Sustainable inclusive economic growth is good for everyone, and can also deliver the results shareholders demand.

Adam Craker, CEO of IQbusiness

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