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Any serious effort to deal with SA’s triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality must be based on a sustained high rate of economic growth. This is the only way that the effects of apartheid will ever be sustainably and inclusively redressed.
No country has achieved significant improvements in living standards for its people without setting ambitious targets for economic growth and taking the necessary and sometimes difficult policy decisions to achieve those targets.
SA’s economy is still divided between insiders and outsiders. The insiders are those with access to assets, funding, education, homes and, most importantly, work.
The outsiders are those who live day-to-day, without jobs, without assets, and increasingly without hope.
The economy requires root and branch changes to break down the wall that divides these two groups of people.This is the foundation of the DA’s plan for growth and jobs.
It is founded on a vision of the economy in which every person has a stake, and which truly works for the benefit of all 50 million South Africans, not just the few.
Our plan specifically targets higher growth, because it is a prerequisite for job creation. Higher growth leads to more jobs, which works to reduce poverty and generate the tax revenue required to invest in infrastructure, welfare programmes, health and education.
High growth has allowed Brazil to achieve a reduction in poverty from 20 to 7 percent of the population in five years, for example. The same is true in Peru, India and other nations similar to SA’s income and inequality profile.
If our economy were to grow by 8 percent a year for 10 years, it would double in relative terms.
By 2024, we would have the equivalent of R2 trillion in today’s money to spend on service delivery a year; double what we spend now. This would transform SA’s social and economic landscape, and would substantively and tangibly redress the apartheid inequalities that still persist. It would, put simply, smash the wall that still divides our economy.
How do we build an economy that can grow at 8 percent a year?
First, we need to address the urgent present crisis of youth exclusion from the economy.
We must implement the government’s planned R5 billion youth wage subsidy programme, which will open up the economy to at least 400 000 young South Africans in the first two years of the programme, with all of the positive compound effects that follow. In the Western Cape, we have already implemented a version of this programme with a much smaller budget, and have shown that it does work.
Second, most new jobs are created in small businesses. If any single intervention is most important in effecting large-scale job creation, it will be in making SA a nation of entrepreneurs. We need to help entrepreneurs by making it easier to start a business, gain access to capital and get our goods to the market. The DA’s plan contains innovative incentives for entrepreneurship including important new tax incentives to support start-up businesses.
Third, we must invest in the infrastructure that is necessary to drive growth in any economy.
We have ships that bypass our harbours every day because it’s not deep or wide enough to berth, and mining companies that can’t invest because our rail network cannot adequately transport their product. All the while, we have thousands of workers sitting at home eager to get working on projects like these. The DA’s plan will see investment in infrastructure on an unprecedented scale.
Many of our competitor countries in Africa are growing rapidly on the back of a commodities boom and years of massive infrastructure investment. Six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing countries are in Africa. In eight of the past 10 years, sub-Saharan Africa has grown faster than east Asia.
But sadly, SA is not in this club, and is falling farther behind this growth curve. We have to make sure that we have the infrastructure to support our growth, in electricity, in transport, and in water.
The DA’s plan for growth and jobs seeks to fix SA at the intersection of education and the economy.
Education defines a child’s life chances, and we need to align education to the modern world of work. Children must have opportunities to take subjects that align with the demands of a growing knowledge-based economy like mathematics, the sciences and engineering.
The DA will ensure that every pupil has a textbook in every subject, and we will hold schools accountable for the quality of the education they give to our children. We will build schools where they are most needed and repair those that are falling apart.
We will also give young South Africans “opportunity vouchers” to help pay for further education or serve as business start-up capital. This way, we will work to ensure that every child will have the skills and knowledge to one day find a job or become an entrepreneur.
While children in Palo Alto, California, are studying logarithms, their peers in Accra, Ghana, are participating in the same lesson. How? Both groups of children are learning through watching online lectures.
In the Western Cape, Our plan is to offer teaching support to schools through tutoring and telematic programmes.
This is the type of forward thinking that is included in our plan.
Investment is vital to achieve these objectives. There is a lot of equity in businesses looking to be invested somewhere. To drive high growth, we need a predictable policy environment attractive to investors who drive new businesses that result in more jobs The DA’s plan for growth and jobs is aimed squarely and breaking down the wall that divides our economy.
It contains innovative thinking for some of SA’s most intractable problems. And it is more than just a plan. It is our commitment to SA.
If we are elected to national government, and have a chance to implement this plan, we will change the way our economy works. We will include every South African in shared prosperity in a country where no child is permanently trapped in the circumstances of their birth, and where no one is left behind.
n Zille is the leader of the DA