Economic Growth in South Africa since 1994 has on average rarely exceeded 2.5%. Moreover, this sustained period of mediocre growth has in recent years been severely undermined by the steady demise of governance through a process commonly known as ‘state capture’. In addition, the economy now faces the more immediate shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, just as the process of rolling back institutionalised corruption and formalising innovative economic growth plans has begun.
What then, can be done in South Africa over the next 500 days? If we were as a society to craft an integrated, short-term and practical set of growth, employment and development priorities, what would this look like? Developing such a 500-day plan arguably goes to the heart of our long-run future as a country.
The aim of the 2021 colloquium was to outline a range of short-term, actionable policy interventions that, together, could place South Africa on a new growth trajectory to fuel economic recovery and create more jobs over a 500 day period.
Participants’ input fed into key advisory fora – including the President’s Economic Advisory Council – and provided valuable insights to help inform the National Treasury’s Mid-Term Expenditure Framework, as well as the wider policy agendas of both government and the social partners.
Throughout its capacity-building journey CBPEP has learnt valuable lessons. It has hosted various colloquiums and dialogues which has led to this key lesson.
Always add value… then magic happens:
Through its annual colloquiums and dialogues, CBPEP has aimed to create spaces dedicated to rich debate and knowledge sharing. The colloquiums have promoted innovative thinking and opportunities to build long-term relationships. Fundamentally, these dialogues have aimed to stimulate policy debate that can affect real change in areas of employment promotion.
Day 1 focused on South Africa's fiscal environment and what could be achieved in the next 500 days. This theme explored the national debt crisis and SOE deficits and looked at policy revisions for improved tax revenue collection and mapped paths to fiscal consolidation.
On Day 2, the CBPEP Colloquium focused on opportunities for growth and employment in telecommunications, digital, energy, water and sanitation sectors, and engaged with private sector views on national priorities including banking, manufacturing, mining and the retail sectors.
On Day 3, the CBPEP Colloquium focused on opportunities for streamlining local government processes and addressing obstacles that inhibit progress. The participants also engaged with ideas generated on how to build state capacity and address municipal debt.
Charley Lewis, Independent Analyst, says that in the short term ICT is unlikely to create many jobs and may even destroy certain jobs. However, intensifying the role of ICT in the economy is essential to underpin economic growth over the medium to longer term, leading to employment creation across a wide range of the economy where ICT is deployed or underpins business processes. His views, shared during the latest CBPEP Colloquium on 500 Days of Economic Policy Action, were recently published in the Business Day.
“The energy sector needs to set South Africa up to leverage the large benefits that will come from being an emerging market leader in the climate agenda, rather than making it bear the costs of lagging behind.” This is the advice from Meridian Economics, who list five steps the energy sector can take in the next 500 days to future-proof the energy sector.
Kenneth Creamer, economics lecturer at WITs University, has identified a number of short-term actionable interventions for South Africa’s electricity policy. At CBPEP’s Colloquium on 500 Days of Economic Policy Action, he addressed ways to improve energy security, reduce the costly resort to load-shedding, stabilise and restructure Eskom and secure longer run employment, industrialisation and decarbonisation objectives.