Hassle-FREE Online Campaigns On Sweech
There was something about the ANC MP who sat and ate the snacks provided throughout the appropriations standing committee session that captured the lethargy of Parliament and the government. MPs were considering the presidential review committee’s report on the transformation of state-owned entities (SOEs), and she stopped munching only to ask what was meant in the report about driving efficiencies of SOEs.
The session with Glen Mashinini, the deputy chairman of the presidential review committee, was somewhat surreal. The main report was delivered in May to President Jacob Zuma, who wants an effective, streamlined SOE environment. It stated that there were 715 SOEs including Eskom, Denel, SAA and Transnet, which fall under Public Enterprises, and little ones like the sectoral education and training authorities falling under Higher Education. Mashinini, unblinking, merely repeated the detail of the now aging report, although avoiding any controversies, such as privatisation, partial listings or the shutting down of some of the entities.
It is not surprising that there was no attention to detail. The report makes the radical suggestion that some entities could be “partially listed” on the JSE, with the state keeping a “golden share”. Such nominal shares that can outvote others are normally held by a government arm in companies undergoing privatisation. The report said the JSE had indicated that it would be willing to allow this for “a limited period”.
Obviously sniffing that this would be the subject of huge controversy – with Cosatu crying foul – the review report said: “This is an option that can be further researched should government consider this as a possible part of the diversified SOE funding options.”
There was nothing new to report. These startling nuggets about possible privatisation are buried in volume two on page 176. This section was not spotted by MPs this week and appears not to have been interrogated back in May either.
Reserve Bank plea
Later on Wednesday, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel had a session on his department’s annual report. Back in 2009 when he moved from the trade union movement to take on the new post, he announced a flurry of economic policy proposals that would see up to 500 000 jobs a year created mainly by the public sector. This was his department’s target, now not mentioned.
In an almost self-satisfied manner, he reported that just short of 200 000 had been created in the past year. “The department achieved 98 percent of its annual targets using less than 90 percent of its budget,” he said proudly. Even if one believes this figure – and that it is the consequence of policymaking by his department – it is short of his own target.
It sounds jolly good, and may well be, but why does Patel not say a word about price fixing, collusion and the sheer inefficiency of the public sector monopolies, which his government wants to extend.
Somehow the government has a blind spot when it deals with its ever expanding SOEs.
Despite the rank failure of the state-owned African Exploration Mining and Finance Company and Alexkor, which are just fiscal black holes, the mineral resources and energy ministers want their roles extended to provide “strategic” coal supplies to Eskom.
The mineral resources minister will in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill have endless powers to meddle in the minerals, oil, petrochemical and gas industries. The state wants to make jolly sure that it can cherry pick resources for the consumption of its resource hungry SOEs.
The Reserve Bank governor and her staff, also at Parliament on Wednesday, bemoaned the fact that South Africa was running both a trade and fiscal deficit.
Marcus said there was a risk of sudden large outflows of capital from the country.
Marcus’s adviser, Brian Kahn, underpinned the point that twin current account and fiscal deficits required stable funding.
But with the government hellbent on expanding a largely inefficient state sector and encouraging state price-fixing activities to underpin largely bloated SOEs, the chances of the central bank’s plea being heard by Parliament are slim.
It is no wonder most MPs’ eyes glaze over and they take solace in the food trough.