At last a president and finance minister who live in the real world

2019-02-22 11:13

It is with a renewed sense of hope that I read the live feed of the Budget Speech.

At last, I sighed, we have a president and finance minister who are living in the real world, just like the rest of the businesspeople of this beautiful country.

I have quite a good feel for the dynamics of party politics, and I know that the words “loyalty, integrity, humility and openness” are terms that most politicians won’t even be able to find in a dictionary.

By openly telling South Africans what they do not want to hear takes guts, and big (you know the word that rhymes with “guts”).

I have long maintained that a country like this deserves only the very best leaders, and at last things seem encouraging. We have leaders who openly quote the Bible and great figures of the past. We have leaders that learn from, and apply the wisdom of our successful predecessors. That is really great to see.

For years the total hypocrisy of government and its partners was breath-taking, to say the least. They have told us so many lies. Sadly, because there are so many people who don’t know the history of our country, they believe anything that politicians tell them.

Government told us that business is the enemy of the people. They told us that every white person in this country physically stole every farm in the country from every black person living in the country, and statistically we know it cannot be true. They told us that all white Afrikaners have oppressed all black people for centuries, and we know that both white people and black people fought side by side in the war against the British colonialists. The public records are there for all to see that both white and black people died in the British concentration camps.

In a different vein, I have been toying with a philosophical idea about a sad paradox that is gripping society today. It seems to me that the increased access to information on the internet and media, have caused people to have very little internalised knowledge. The modern thought process is that you need to know where to find the knowledge and how to search for it. When I grew up, we didn’t have such unrestricted access to information. Therefore, we were forced to internalise the knowledge in case we had to use it one day. Just yesterday, I experienced this issue when one of my suppliers could not do a simple plus or minus calculation due to a power failure. Actually, it was a scary experience. But let me not digress…

Our society has become so highly politicised and polarised, that we can hardly talk to each other for a few minutes before the conversation turns to politics or race. Surely that must be unhealthy in any modern society.

In numerous political speeches, “business” was asked to come to the “party”. When Mr Zuma was being readied for taking over from Mr Mbeki, one of the first phone calls that the ruling party made, was to “business”. Surely, you know which “business” I am talking about.

In exchange for “business’” attendance at this party, we were slapped with literally reams of rules, legislation, regulations and compliance duties.

Recently, I decided to do an exercise. We are involved in a business that operated in the water sector. We measured the time and effort that it takes for our business to remain open and win new orders.

Here are our particular figures and they are truly scary.

It takes our highly-proficient staff anything from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to complete one government tender under the value of R200 000. Of this time, only 13 minutes are spent filling in the physical prices. The rest of the time is spent filling in compliance forms, directors’ details, declarations, and a pile of other senseless items.

In contrast, issuing a similar quote to another company, takes approximately nine minutes.

Now imagine how many thousands of companies are completing how may thousands of tender bids daily. And in many cases the tender value could be as low as R35 000. Using that amount of time to complete a tender for such a small amount, and then competing with many, many other companies at such low profit margins? 

Completing a tender document with a value higher than R200 000 is of course another matter altogether, you do the maths.

In order for us to be fully “compliant” with all the rules and regulations, we had to actually appoint someone on a full-time basis just to ensure that we are eligible to tender. One might say that it is a good thing, because it creates jobs.

Well, I am of the opinion that I could have appointed a salesperson instead. In my instance, an admin person costs money while a salesperson generates money. Increased sales grow my company, and at better profit margins than Government tenders. Increased sales give my business scale. It grows my business and that of my suppliers. Once we have achieved that scale, there would be a legitimate need for me to appoint an admin person.

The important difference is that this admin person would be required to assist with our increased amount of invoices issued, and not with unprofitable things like compliance. This will generate much more income tax for Government than one admin person checking compliance all day. In other words, the “compliance person” will eventually get a job, but in a different capacity.

The current system is forcing employers to employ people on the wrong side of the business. That is why we are not growing.

To those people out there that are going to tell me not to do tenders then, I want to say that they are missing the point. Kindly take the time and research all the hoops that South African businesspeople have to jump through in order to achieve compliance. Fighting against our competitors is hard enough. We simply don’t need this much regulation.

Sir, you are a businessman, so I am probably preaching to the converted. But let me say that we need you to hear our plea. We need you to act on this. It is not an unreasonable request, it makes sense and it is really not that difficult to achieve.

If we can sort out this issue, I am sure that many of my peers will agree when I express my renewed commitment to the future of this amazing country.

Have a great day

The Businessman

Read more on:    budget speech 2019
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