THE 14-point plan announced by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to “take the country out of recession” will instead exacerbate tensions between government and the unions, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap. He says the plan - to be fleshed out in the medium term budget in October - not only lacks detail, but takes us back to 1996.
In that year, the combined labour movement launched the Social Equity and Job Creation proposals, based on the years of work done by the ANC’s high qualified Macro-economic Research Group. It proposed a system of wealth redistribution that would lead to greater equity and to economic growth.
Government responded with a “much skimpier” Growth Employment and Redistribution (Gear) outline that proposed the opposite: a stress on economic growth. This, says Bell, was based on the now widely discredited “trickle down” theory which held that as the rich became richer, more wealth would trickle down to the poor.
The unions and some civil society groups opposed Gear, but in a rather muted fashion. Those groups such as Cosatu and the South African Communist Party within the ANC-led alliance seemed to feel that they could somehow bring about change from within.
As disgruntlement grew we had, successively, Asgisa (Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative), NGP (National Growth Plan), NDP (National Development Plan) followed by President Jacob Zuma’s forgettable nine points and now Gigaba’s 14.
Bell points out that the authoritative mainstream economist Azar Jammine has referred to the latest 14 point, plan as “hot air”. Jammine should, Bell maintains, have added the adjective stale, since “we have heard it all before”.
By raising again, prominently, the spectre of privatisation, labour fears of a cash-strapped government “selling off the family silver” will be heightened. This because of the awareness among unions and citizens at large about the levels of corruption and pillaging of the pubic purse.
Bell maintains that alternatives do exist to “pandering to the ratings agencies” whose sole task is to create conditions to make monied global minority even more wealthy.
However, he thinks that the political will to make the necessary, radical, changes is absent in a governing elite where far too many are “poisoned by patronage and mired in corruption”.
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