LETTER: Impact assessment systems needed for sound policymaking
It was good to see Stuart Theobald espouse the cause of the "socioeconomic impact assessment system" (Sias) ("ANC fails to use evidence in policymaking decisions", December 13).
I have been advocating for this process regularly since the early 2000s, and again recently in a chapter titled "The political economy of giving economic advice" in my latest book. At the outset called the "regulatory impact assessment" mechanism, it was later transformed into what is now known as Sias.
Accepted by the cabinet as long ago as 2007, its original inspiration was commendably designed to encourage evidence-based policymaking decisions and make prevention better than cure.
For various reasons it never really gained traction, has therefore not flourished in recent years and has fallen into disuse. It is hardly visible in policy formulation. This gap has revealed a serious flaw in policymaking and SA is currently paying dearly for it.
Given the deep trouble the SA economy is in now, the resuscitation of the Sias is an idea whose time has (again) arrived and requires urgent consideration at the highest level. We need as far as possible, more than ever before, to avoid or minimise serious policy mistakes in advance, which now exact a heavy and unnecessary toll on SA’s economic performance.
It was President Cyril Ramaphosa who recently rightly gave "implementation, implementation, implementation" as the dominant mantra for SA at his third investment conference last month. To achieve this and build credibility, however, will not only require drastic measures to ensure positive outcomes for the official decisions already taken, but additionally to use mechanisms that can improve the quality of certain future policy decisions.
This is what a disciplined, co-ordinated and transparent Sias could offer to beleaguered policymakers in SA wanting to more successfully manage a "mixed economy".
So, if Ramaphosa and his cabinet want to help reduce policy uncertainty, strengthen investor confidence, reduce policy shocks, "stay on message" and get more things right the first time around from next year, it would be in both government and the country’s interests to resurrect a strong role for the Sias.
The task may even be important enough to highlight its revival in the February 2021 state-of-the-nation address.
North-West University Business School
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