The emergence of businessman Cyril Ramaphosa in a high profile role within the ANC is positive for the markets and the economy, according to Goolam Ballim, the chief economist at Standard Bank.
At a presentation in Johannesburg yesterday, Ballim also highlighted the ruling party’s embrace of the National Development Plan, designed by a commission under the chairmanship of Planning Minister Trevor Manuel and launched last year.
These developments, along with the ANC’s plan to introduce a youth wage subsidy, were signs the ruling party was finally prepared to take action to arrest “what has been subpar growth”.
And he described this indication that “pragmatism may prevail over left leaning tendencies”, as “comforting”.
Ballim said signals sent by the State of the Nation Address and the Budget this month could be “materially constructive”.
He said the ANC appeared to have “lost its way” in terms of policy and its credibility had been damaged by recent events. But Ramaphosa, who was elected to the position of ANC deputy president at Mangaung in December, could help bridge the gap that “may have opened between the ANC and the country’s middle class. And his unionist background suggests he could be the fulcrum around which the elusive social pact could be achieved – connecting the labour market and formally unionised labour with the government and business.”
The proposal for the youth wage subsidy suggested a more pragmatic policy approach, a sign that the ruling party was prepared to make decisions that “expose the fissures within the tripartite alliance, even at the cost of straining those relationships”, Ballim said.
Cosatu is opposed to the concept, arguing that it will create a two-tier market and undermine the position of its existing membership.
Citrix, a global software firm, on Tuesday published findings of a study that could present a compelling argument for employers to allow more and more employees to choose to work offsite.
By some measure, the traditional model of workplace productivity is being challenged regularly as new devices improving an employee’s ability to be productive outside of the office flood the market.
Sean Wainer, the managing director of Citrix South Africa, aptly summed up the emerging paradigm when he said: “The idea of presenteeism is an old adage… The majority of people today need to be mobile.”
The argument for mobility lies in a study conducted by Dr Adrian Saville, a visiting professor at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and chief investment officer at Cannon Asset Managers.
Saville was commissioned by Citrix to measure the economic mobility for 140 countries using World Bank and International Monetary Fund data between 1997 and 2012, to provide a set of 2 100 observations relating to country mobility, individual income and employment levels.
If South Africa embraced and improved mobility, the average gross domestic product could increase by 40 percent over a 10- to 20-year period, according to the study.
Mobility is one of the latest buzzwords in information and communications technology circles but its definition in the context of the Citrix survey includes improved transport links and faster broadband and cellphone communications infrastructure such as fourth-generation networks.
In the survey South Africa, compared with other economies across the globe, was rated as “average” for mobility.
“Macroeconomic factors such as movement of trade and capital have less of a direct impact on the local economy than microeconomic factors such as movement of people and information. High levels of mobility have been shown to foster entrepreneurship which in turn is a major engine for economic growth,” Saville argues in the study.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Planning Minister Trevor Manuel were peppered with questions at the Mining Indaba about what opportunities they could identify for exploitation. Their heads were not cluttered with ideas.
At a media briefing, it was pointed out that the state intended to identify coal as a strategic mineral resource. A journalist noted that at last year’s ANC conference in Mangaung it had been suggested that special measures should be taken with regard to a list of minerals.
The minister was asked if she could elaborate on what this meant and what such policy measures these might entail. Shabangu only said the identified strategic assets were needed “to grow our country… some of them are energy related”. The measures would deal with “the security of supply of energy in our country”.
She then pointed out that South Africa had to deal in the past with load-shedding by Eskom and this could not be revisited.
It appeared to support the government’s idea that a percentage of the coal, used in the coal-fired power stations by Eskom, should be dedicated for South African, or state, use. She did not mention other minerals that could be on the strategic list.
Manuel, meanwhile, was trying to be as pleasant as possible to the assembled mining bigwigs. The more one beneficiated, however, the better for South Africa, he believed. “The further down the track (we are) with value add… the better off we are as a country because our revenues will increase,” he said.
With regard to the abundant platinum group metals in South Africa, there were significant opportunities for the development of fuel cells, he rambled.
Asked specifically about government involvement in “strategic minerals” by a delegate, Manuel was vague. He suggested that coal would not be strategic “if energy sources are different”.
He then suggested that the government and business should regularly talk to each other about these matters. “Government will come from a particular perspective and the private sector from another.”
Eventually they will both understand what is strategic.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ethel Hazelhurst, Asha Speckman and Donwald Pressly.