Economic change in SA: Gigaba has the answers

Durban - The fight against corruption in South Africa should not become a fight against transformation, said Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday.

Speaking at the 27th World Economic Forum in Durban, Gigaba cautioned against the notion that putting the economy in black people’s hands amount to corruption. “We shouldn’t use transformation and corruption in the same breath.”

Gigaba was in discussion with Adrian Monck, veteran journalist and WEF head of communication on radical economic transformation in South Africa.

READ: Brawl at parly debate on economic transformation

Monck asked Gigaba about recent statements that the ANC had been too conservative in dealing with transformation and the economy. “How should economic change become more radical?”

'We could have done better'

Gigaba acknowledged that there were areas where the ANC-led government could have done better.  “We could have better changed the structure of production for example to diversify the economy and create a thriving manufacturing sector,” he said.

In addition, more attention should have been paid to beneficiation and skills development, such as those of future entrepreneurs.

“One problem for example is that there’s not a productive economy in our townships and rural areas. The economy in townships are based on spaza shops and car washes for example and you must therefore understand the impatience for more speedy and significant change,” Gigaba said.

He stressed that the ANC should work hard and be self-critical to justify the confidence of the masses who put their trust in the ruling party.

Plans of fiscal prudence

Monck asked Gigaba whether he plans on continuing with the trajectory of fiscal prudence. “South Africa’s fiscal debt was one of the main triggers for the credit ratings downgrade that greeted you when you became finance minister,” Monck said.

“Now you have the opportunity to let people know if you’re going to borrow more, or follow through on the previous trajectory.”

Gigaba reiterated previous statements that the 2017 Budget is set and that “nobody must tamper with it”.

“But we need to grow the economy. The inclusive growth narrative must become part of our DNA. With a growing economy we can expand our revenue base and grow the fiscus with which we can invest in socioeconomic programmes.

'Money we don't have'

“However, we cannot spend money we don’t’ have. We need to manage it. Our spending patterns should not be out of tune with the growth patterns in our economy.”

Monck also asked Gigaba to tell the audience about his political career and pointed out that he was three times elected as president of the ANC Youth League when he was younger. “What took you into politics?”

Gigaba said his father was a pastor and his first ambition was to become a bishop. “I imagined myself wearing long robes and carrying a pastoral stick. Then I evolved into wanting to become an attorney, but my father told me I’ll have to lie on behalf of criminals.”

Instead he obtained an education degree and entered politics at a very young age, Gigaba said. “And it’s the only thing I know since then.”

Presidential ambitions

Monck concluded the session asking Gigaba whether he harboured any presidential ambitions, in the same vein as the young French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron.

Gigaba side-stepped the question, but pointed out that the South African political system, particularly the ANC, functions in a particular way.

“In December 2017, ANC branches will make their decisions about the (new ANC) leadership,” he said.

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