Jimmy Manyi has come and gone. He has held top jobs in the government sector, including chairman of the Commission on Employment Equity, director-general of the Department of Labour and more recently, cabinet spokesman and chief executive of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). Now he is jobless, at least for the moment.
When asked what he would be doing now that his contract had not been extended, he said that he would continue to serve as president of the Black Management Forum.
However, election for the top office bearers of the forum takes place in October and he said he would not be standing again. It was now customary for the president only to stand for one term, and in fact, he had served two three-year terms as president. Manyi added that he would probably “tend to my garden” and reflect for a while.
He was not the only government leader who was coy about his future this week. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was asked by Business Report whether he had ambitions to be ANC president – and thus national president – one day, and if not, why not? He was asked this at a session arranged by the GCIS, represented by acting chief executive Phumla Williams, with the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association.
Motlanthe chose not to answer, understandably, as journalists had been told to confine questions to government business. Instead, he answered another question on whether politicians should send a positive signal to the nation by taking a pay cut.
He suggested that some party – other than the ANC – would have to come along to implement a flat salary system as it operated in Cuba, a system he appeared to favour. He noted that South African medical students there were earning more than their professors.
The idea of pay cuts was unlikely to wash, especially as people had become accustomed to not living hand-to-mouth.
Forecasting is the art of the impossible. Outcomes that seem inevitable in hindsight – like the collapse of the subprime market starting in 2007 – are not obvious ahead of the event. There are too many variables in real life that are not wired into the forecasting models.
The perils of forecasting were highlighted yesterday when Statistics SA released July producer inflation figures. The year-on-year rise in the price of goods leaving factories, farms and mines was 5.4 percent. This was above the 5.2 percent estimate in a Reuters’ poll and below the 5.8 percent consensus of economists polled by Bloomberg.
Economists aren’t the only ones regularly caught out by the vagaries of life.
Journalists who have less time and fewer numbers to crunch often rely heavily on speculation. On Monday Bloomberg filed two reports within minutes of each other. One said: “India’s rupee fell to the lowest level in more than a week on concern European leaders will find it difficult to contain their region’s debt crisis.” The other suggested the appreciation in the Polish zloty was due to speculation that policymakers “will take steps to support economies worldwide”.
Possibly neither was correct: lately markets seem to move simply because they can’t afford to stand still.
Perhaps the most difficult variable to predict is the behaviour of people.
This is particularly a problem for policymakers. For instance, would a further cut in interest rates lead people to pay off their debt faster? Or would it encourage them to take out new debt? Would higher tax rates bring in more revenue for the fiscus? Or would it promote the tax avoidance and evasion industry? Would higher import taxes protect local industry or would it support the thriving smuggling industry?
Either outcome is possible, though sometimes one is more probable. That’s why policymakers – and others – need to think beyond what seems obvious.
A report by McKinsey Global Institute, released yesterday, says African economies are on the move and the continent has been the second-fastest growing region in the world over the past decade.
“Africa at Work: Job creation and inclusive growth” says the benefits of economic growth appear to be reaching many of Africa’s people and poverty is retreating.
About 90 million African households had joined the consuming classes by last year, an increase of 31 million households in just a decade.
Co-authors Dave Fine and Norbert Dörr say sustained and robust gross domestic product growth is a prerequisite for expanding employment in Africa. But to create better outcomes for workers and economies as a whole, policymakers and business leaders need to work together to accelerate the creation of wage-paying, productive jobs across the continent.
They warn that a job strategy is different from the broad-based industrial policies that have proved ineffective. Action aimed explicitly at encouraging job creation is not about protecting domestic industries from foreign competition through tariffs and quotas, supporting companies through local content rules, or directing credit to certain companies or sectors.
“Nor is it about creating ‘trophy’ industries, such as automotive or semiconductors, or national champions in core industries. Governments around the world have wasted billions of dollars on failed attempts at industrial policies in the past.”
The report says instead, a jobs strategy should begin with a fact-based assessment of a country’s global competitiveness in different products; it should select subsectors that build on national endowments and have the most potential to create jobs.
The next task is to identify and remove regulatory blockages that restrain growth and ensure that infrastructure and a skilled workforce are in place.
South Africa, are you listening? page 4
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly, Ethel Hazelhurst and Wiseman Khuzwayo.