Business sector must take the lead

2016-05-05 06:00

A PRACTICAL and positive approach to tackling tough situations dictates that the current reality, no matter how ominous, must be faced head on while never losing hope that a lasting solution or positive outcome will be forthcoming.

Let’s not fool ourselves – the Hibiscus Coast is at a crossroad right now. If radical efforts are not made to address youth unemployment (37%), income inequality (45% of all those employed earn less than R2 000 per month), lack of affordable housing (backlog of 35 000 housing units) as well as infrastructure maintenance, nobody will want to be here. International tourists will not want to be here. Holidaymakers will not want to be here and existing permanent residents will not want to be here.

If you believe that this sounds alarmist or over dramatic, consider what two well respected gentlemen had to say recently. Our statistician- general, Pali Lahohla, is not a man given to exaggeration. On releasing his report “Social Profile of Youth” he referred to the prospects for the youth in this country as “a cocktail of disasters”. When asked about the possible downgrading of South Africa’s investment status, former governor of the SA Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, said: “A dark cloud, mist or fog is gathering upon us as a country.”

You don’t get much more ominous than that.

The risk we face is that we do nothing because we become desensitised to the socioeconomic symptoms of these problems. We become desensitised to violent crime. We become desensitised to poverty and homelessness. We become desensitised to failing infrastructure and the destruction of property. The risk we face is that we do nothing because “they” (whoever “they” are) must sort it out.

The reality is that there is no “they” who will sort things out. The business sector, as the key driver of economic growth in the region, has to play the leading role in eradicating poverty and fostering an inclusive society. A dynamic business sector is a prerequisite for economic growth, poverty reduction, income generation and the creation of decent jobs for all but especially the youth. The ball is not with the government, although it obviously has a role to play. The ball is not with law enforcement although they have a job to do – the ball is with the business sector.

Unless this region bucks the national trend and achieves sustainable economic growth of around five percent pa (growth in the region amounted to 0.96% in 2015) we are headed down a slippery slope to social unrest and lawlessness. This is not an issue of politics, it is a socioeconomic reality. With everything that this region has to offer, it will be an indictment on all of us if this is allowed to happen. This may not be a responsibility that the business sector anticipated. It may not be a responsibility that the average business owner views as fair – fact is, who else is going to do it? Who has the most to lose if it doesn’t happen?

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