Radical transformation, Ramaphosa style
The presidential hopeful has announced his plan for a ‘New Deal’ to turn SA’s economy around
ANC presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa has outlined his vision for the economy in a speech in Soweto.
After establishing the context — the harrowing consequences of apartheid and the more recent harrowing consequences of President Jacob Zuma (not mentioned by name) — he went on to call for a "New Deal" to take the country forward.
When Franklin D Roosevelt coined the phrase in the 1930s, he was talking about a giant state-spending programme aimed at taking the US out of depression.
Perhaps because he is painfully aware that SA is in no position to spend its way out of its woes, Ramaphosa’s plan has a different character.
It does call for a dramatic increase in investment and for the state to scale up infrastructure spending to R1.5trillion. But his "New Deal" appears to be some sort of consensus to be arrived at between government, business and labour on how to spark economic growth.
At its core, it is a plan based around a series of "entrepreneurial" initiatives. Ramaphosa wants to scale up the youth employment programme to provide 1m internships within three years. This is a politically brave move, given that he counts the unions as supporters — which is why he has been careful to continue his ardent support for the minimum wage.
He wants to cut the red tape that prevents the launch of small businesses to boost the "township economy" and spark black small businesses.
He wants the energy sector to focus on renewables, which he believes could become one of the country’s strengths.
He believes growth can be accelerated to 3% in 2018 with the right approach.
He believes in fiscal discipline and the rooting out of corruption to fix ailing state enterprises.
All of this falls under the heading of "radical economic transformation", now an ANC staple that can mean anything from wholesale nationalisation to austerity, depending on who you talk to.
"Today, the SA economy benefits only a few.
"Through a ‘New Deal’, we can build an economy that benefits all," he says.
"With the right leadership, with a competent and committed team, with a clear programme around which all social partners can unite, there is no reason why the economy cannot be turned around."
There you have it.
All of it has been said before, but Ramaphosa is promising that he can move the distractions aside and actually implement this.
Is he all hat and no cattle? Apparently not. He is launching a book on the Ankole breed soon. They have very big horns.