In an economy hit by double-digit contraction, battered by a 42% jobless rate and languishing in junk status, what should the key sector stakeholders — organised labour and business — be doing to lift SA out of the morass? President Cyril Ramaphosa, renowned proponent of social compacts, thinks they should be holding hands and making common cause in order to turn the economy around and set it on a path of rapid growth and development. His advocacy of social contracting and promotion of inclusive solutions may seem, to many, like fiddling in a time of crisis.

The impatience with his approach is understandable in a country that has endured years of poor leadership and deteriorating economic fortunes. But he is probably right. History shows that in many countries that have successfully made tectonic policy changes in relatively short periods of time, change has been driven by a single-minded dictator or an authoritarian political party — on occasion both...

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