Pali Lehohla
Pali Lehohla

OPINION: Settling political differences through peaceful negotiations

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Nov 17, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG -  CodeSA  set us on the path that as a nation we would be known to settle political  differences through peaceful negotiations. 

Late president Nelson Mandela went on to conclude that what South Africans achieved was nothing short of a miracle and  we avoided plunging ourselves into rivers of blood. 

This was and still remains the social capital South Africa amassed for itself and projected to the world. That being said, revolutionary change, demands not only compromises but sacrifices as well. 

An area that has been deliberated extensively since 1994 was economic policy. Central to it was a critique of Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR), which replaced the Reconstruction and Development Programme. 

GEAR ran from 1994 to 1999 and but unemployment remained stubbornly high and growth subdued. While it failed to address growth and unemployment on delivering badly needed services and creating a framework for orderly budgeting I would argue that it worked. 

The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative-South Africa (Asgisa) showed favourable results in both growth stimulation, reduction in unemployment and expansion of services. Whether these would have been achieved without first creating a GEAR platform could perhaps be debatable..

The debate has been reinvigorated by South Africa’s dismal growth, high unemployment, deplorable financial and economic management as well as poverty of politics and a vortex of political leadership. As a Statistician-General, I had been concerned about coherence of bringing policies, plans and implementation through a platform that yields results. 

I was aware that the tools that statistics bring to the table of policy such as input-output tables, Supply and Use Tables, Social Accounting Matrices and Growth Accounting Framework were alien amongst my colleagues who are responsible for planning. 

Yet these form the basis for any thoughtful long-term planning. 

Our research in this space introduced me to even bigger and complex models.   The one that served the needs best was Applied Development Research Solutions (ADRS)  which not only used the aforementioned tools to model South Africa’s futures but exploited Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) data maximally to contribute in South Africa’s policy debate. 

We have presented the results to business, the ANC’s economic transformation committee, the 70s Group and the Motlanthe Foundation’s Drakensberg Dialogue of Equals among others.

The Gauteng Provincial Government has indulged ADRS to train officials in model based planning.  

The Indlulamithi econometric modelling shows that the Nayi le Walk undergirded by the implementation of six scenarios holds hope for South Africa.   It will be possible to achieve inclusive growth for labour, the poor and business in the next ten years. 

Unemployment can drop to 12 percent,  moneymetric poverty could fall to 13 percent , investment ratios could improve to 28 percent, growth could reach 5.7 percent, inequality could ease  12 percentage points, debt to GDP ratio would move back to 30 percent and the economy could double from R 3 trillion to R6 trillion. 

This could move us closer to the NDP goals but only and only if there are no holy cows in the macro-economic space. All and all should be open for economic policy options. The Idlulamithi scenario consultative process have opened science based arguments for South Africa to consider in their economic policy options and how these are growth inclusive and enhance social compacts. Our consultations thus far have yielded positive impulses.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former Head of Statistics South Africa.


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