BACKSTORY: Gilad Isaacs
We question Gilad Isaacs, co-director at the Institute for Economic Justice on his top tip for doing a deal, the one investment he wishes he’d made earlier and what he’d change about SA’s approach to lockdown
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Don’t do one with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if the fine print binds your hands. In this crisis we need to access cost-effective finance, but IMF funds aren’t the answer if the deal we strike imposes years of austerity.
What was your first job?
My first real job was with the Treatment Action Campaign, as the Khayelitsha district manager.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
About R12,000 a month, spent prudently, except for Friday night sushi.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
That maintaining the integrity of your position while building bridges across factional lines is far harder, but far more important, than shouting louder than those you disagree with.
What have you most enjoyed about the lockdown?
We got a puppy. He’s a schnauzer, with a beard. His name is Engels.
What, if anything, would you have changed about SA’s approach to the lockdown?
If you want to reduce economic activity by asking people to stay home and businesses to stay shut, you have to offer effective financial support for them to do so. Unfortunately, wage support, business support and social grants have been inadequate.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
Despite recent public spats, I share a passion with the minister of finance. I, too, like to cook.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
Video conferencing companies!
What do you see as the most overrated virtue?
The misconception that hard work is enough to ensure success, when the arbitrariness of our birth — race, class, gender, and so on — play such a determining role.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career?
Yes. Sometimes the thought of being a normal academic, with the time to learn, write and teach, is appealing. I co-direct a think-tank, the Institute for Economic Justice and this is hugely satisfying. But the hurly-burly of policy contestation can be exhausting.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I’d fully enact the R500bn rescue package, then formulate a 10-year policy for an environmentally transformative, people-orientated, just recovery aimed at structural transformation.
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