Take a break: Good news on the economy

2008-07-27 00:00

Economist J.P. Landsman takes an almost perverse pleasure in calling a spade a shovel, and lacing some of the less palatable pronouncements, to his audience at least, with raucous, infectious laughter.

The context is a gathering of about 300 farmers attending Omnia Nutriology’s no-till farming day in Pietermaritzburg, and Landsman holding court on economic prospects post-Mbeki.

Current circumstances have clouded the future outlook somewhat, and the best crystal ball gazers can do is take counsel from the present, and paint the greater picture. This tactic, if deployed with judicious doses of messianic outrage as Landsman did, also allows for an interpretive view on why things are the way they are.

We learnt, for instance, that the previous South African regime stopped spending on road building in 1988 as the siege economy took hold, and that the ANC government in 2007 invested eight percent of GDP in infrastructure. Or that the country, measured in per capita terms, is getting richer, and that more jobs are being created, and that population growth is slowing, a key indicator of declining poverty.

Landsman’s presentation took many detours and touched on localised conditions as much as it tapped into the first world’s financial crisis, and rising fuel and food prices globally.

Outlining a reassuring prognosis of 3,5% economic growth to boost employment to 47% by 2014, Landsman said to achieve 50%, we only need to lift growth by another one percent.

Continued economic growth is critical, however, and represents one of Landman’s four tipping points to keep the ship on an even keel.

More challenging, perhaps, is the need for greater social cohesion, an ineffable quality that cannot be measured in percentages, but is judged by the degree of common good in a society.

This sphere is served by several examples, including that of the midlands farmer whose rehabilitation programme in the Pietermaritzburg Prison is yielding astounding results and the Awesome SA initiative.

Landsman referred to a stirring of the common people, and said initiatives are popping up everywhere, mainly to give vent to a demand for values to be re-instilled in society.

This search for greater morality, and efforts to support it, is Landsman’s second tipping point, while the other points relate to stronger institutions, and the need for greater law enforcement.

Much as Landsman provoked, probed at perceptions and picked at prejudices, the key message was one of hope that must spring eternal if we plan to keep the ship on course. The other message was to pay attention to below-the-radar developments that speak of a genuine desire to make things better, such as the department of Education’s decision to replace the Policy Unit with one that monitors and evaluates the performance of teachers.

Profitable networking

A well-supported cocktail party at Collegians Club this week set the tone for round two of the pioneering ProfitNet initiative, which has made a measurable difference to the professionalism and profitability of small enterprises in and around Pietermaritzburg. A clutch of new facilitators have been trained in a day-long session, and 29 members — or applicants — are currently being assessed. Recruitment is well under way and interested people may contact Claire O’Neill on 033 260 5675 or visit www.profitnet.org.za.

Walking women

The Women in Business network has called on women — and their men — to join a tide of pink on Sunday, August 10, to show their support for Women’s Day.

A mass walk is planned along the R103, starting at the Nottingham Road Tourism office and heading for Sunfield Home, 32 km away, in what promises to be a day of fun to lighten the step and lift the spirit.

Joining the walk will cost R80 per person, that includes a pink T-shirt, if you register early, or R120 after July 31. For more information, contact www.womeninbusiness.org.za, or 033 266 6308 and 033 3305172.

Starry night

Msunduzi Hospice has been thanking its lucky stars after a successful evening of fun, laughter and fund-raising at the Golden Horse Casino.

About R16 000 was collected by means of an auction with a difference, known as an American Auction, and that’s not counting the money raised in the other initiatives.

Comedian Stuart Taylor, host of Going Nowhere Slowly, was a hit by all accounts, and mercilessly milked an entire herd of holy cows …

Mildly cold

Bar the odd cold spell, winter has been mild this year. Nature clearly is most confused, so much so that some trees are already covered in their spring best.

But winter is far from over of course, and we can do nothing but hope that we’re not going to witness a black frost like we did in 2004.

Last word

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn’t.” — Erica Jong.

derekalberts@mweb.co.za

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