A central theme of resolutions adopted at the ANC’s policy conference in Midrand last week – greater state intervention in the economy – was “pure satire” in the light of the track record of existing state entities, says DA leader Helen Zille.
State-owned enterprises had had to be “rescued by taxpayers to the tune of R243 billion” between 2008 and 2010, she said on Sunday.
“And to add insult to injury, when their CEOs and senior staff were ‘relieved’ of their positions, it cost taxpayers R262m to let them go,” she claimed.
Zille was commenting on plans for greater state intervention in mining and the creation of a state-owned bank, a state-owned construction company and a state-controlled “human resource planning entity”.
“Each one of these is destined for failure,” she said. Referring to the Limpopo textbooks fiasco that left school pupils there without learning materials six months into the school year, and the discovery that older textbooks were being destroyed, Zille said: “If a state is so inept that it cannot even deliver textbooks to schools, its attempt to control the supply and demand of human resources throughout the economy will certainly result in a ‘giant leap’ – over the cliff and into an abyss.”
President Jacob Zuma, in his opening address to the conference, had called for a “giant leap” to speed up socio-economic transformation of the economy, which remained largely in white hands.
“While seeking state intervention everywhere it shouldn’t, the ANC continues to resist it where it should,” Zille added, complaining about the failure to implement a youth wage subsidy Zuma first mooted in his 2010 State of the Nation address.
Last week Zuma floated the idea of a job-seekers’ grant, and it remains unclear whether this is intended to replace the wage subsidy, for which R5bn was budgeted this year but which has yet to be spent.
Zille said the “ill-defined” job-seekers’ grant “misdiagnoses the failure in our labour market, where job search costs are a limited contributor to unemployment”.
The grant would be “relatively ineffective, increase dependence on the state, and do nothing to encourage more job creation”. As things stood, grant recipients outnumbered personal taxpayers by more than 3:1, Zille said.
Not only was this unsustainable, but the new grant would skew the picture further. “It will not enable more people to move into the productive economy and up the ladder, eventually growing the number of taxpayers. In fact, it will do precisely the opposite.”
The Limpopo crisis and news of plans to acquire a new jet for Zuma at a cost of R2 billion had overshadowed the conference and “told us much more about the ‘real ANC’ than the resolutions emanating from its own commissions”.
The “rhetoric of Midrand” had been “obliterated in the metaphorical pall of smoke that rose from the state-sponsored burning and shredding of undelivered textbooks a few hundred kilometres further north”, she said.
“That tells you all you need to know about the ANC’s ‘developmental state’ and the farce that passed itself off as a ‘pro-poor policy conference’,” Zille said.