The President’s speech was not the brave commitment that we had hoped for, and which South Africa needs. It was full of jargon, and at times turgid. Most importantly, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not close the “credibility gap” between promised reform and absent action.
He should have used this speech to take on the enemies of growth and reform. And he needed to show exactly how, and when, the promised reforms would be achieved. Without this detail, the President will get zero benefit of the doubt.
If South Africa’s economy is to recover at all, then it is not more plans that are needed. South Africa has a surfeit or plans. The only thing that counts now is whether the needed reforms can actually be implemented in time to avoid further mass unemployment and poverty. The clock is already ticking.
He should fire Ministers who stand in the way of reform.
He should commit to public implementation timeframes that are set in stone.
Every Minister responsible for a key reform area must commit to a timeline for the implementation of that reform. If they fail to meet that timeline, then they should be held accountable and fired.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is completely committed to a wide-ranging reform agenda. We must move policy away from a preoccupation with state control in the economy. This has failed. Now is the time to focus on pro-growth, pro-innovation policies.
We have told President Ramaphosa that if he cannot carry his own party, he can rely on the DA’s support for the reform agenda. We will also hold him accountable for his promises. That is why we have launched an Economic Reform Tracker, to hold government accountable for slow progress on reform. That document, which sets out the most urgent reforms to focus on, is available here:
Some of the announcements today make little sense, and it is unclear how they will be paid for. The promise of an expansion of the public employment program while at the same time cutting the public wage bill, is clearly contradictory. This promise is not achievable and is nothing more than dishonest spin. We will interrogate the coming budget announcements to see how, or if, these promises will be funded. Increasing trade protectionism is not pro-growth. It is anti-competitive.
The President must also show commitment to prioritizing people’s need over ANC needs. This means cancelling any further bailouts for SAA, and focusing spending on services to the poor. It is indefensible to prioritize bailing out SAA over the many urgent needs in South Africa now.
Our economy, our country, is at a crossroads. If we do not make very rapid progress on wide-ranging pro-growth reform, then we will not recover. Today’s speech was a missed opportunity to show genuine tough commitment to driving the reform agenda through government.