political economy

The crisis of inequality – book launch – 27 March

You are invited by Wits University Press to the launch of the New South African Review 6: The Crisis of Inequality

Editors: Gilbert M Khadiagala; Sarah Mosoetsa; Devan Pillay and Roger Southall

Despite the transition from apartheid to democracy, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Its extremes of wealth and poverty undermine intensifying struggles for a better life for all. The wide-ranging essays in this sixth volume of the New South African Review demonstrate how the consequences of inequality extend throughout society and the political economy, crippling the quest for social justice, polarising the politics, skewing economic outcomes and bringing devastating environmental consequences in their wake.

Discussants: Sarah Mosoetsa, Roger Southall & Neva Makgetla

Date:  Tuesday 27 March 2018 17:30 for 18:00
Venue: South West Engineering Building, Graduate Seminar Room Wits University, Braamfontein, Johannesburg (Parking at Origins Centre, Yale Road)
RSVP by Monday 26 March 2018 to

More info about the book click here.

Author: WITS

economic policy fiscal policy governance political economy public policy

POWER FM: Trudi Makhaya on The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement [Preview]

Trudi Makhaya and Patrick Bond discussed the expectations around the 2017 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on POWER FM hosted by Ayabonga Cawe.

Listen below:

political economy

State firms fail as training ground for black professionals

In the private sector, there are companies that are known as great training grounds for managerial and professional talent. Often, these places have rigorous recruitment processes and well thought-out development programmes, and embrace a culture of learning. McKinsey, SABMiller and, back in the day, Anglo American, have that reputation. In some Asian countries, such as Singapore and Japan, the public sector holds this reputation.

In SA, the apartheid state achieved some effectiveness in using state-owned institutions, especially those we now know as state-owned enterprises (SOEs), to nurture the aspirations of its constituency. Organisations such as Eskom and Transnet not only pursued that regime’s developmental goals, they provided an avenue for ordinary men and women, notably Afrikaners, to gain skills and build careers.

I am no fan of what I call neovolkskapitalisme, which manifests in “Broederbond envy” by certain sections of the black elite. As Sol Plaatje wrote about the passage of the Natives Land Act of 1913, “concession after concession was wrung from the government by fanatically Dutch postulants for office, for government doles and other favours, who, like the daughters of the horse-leech in the Proverbs of Solomon, continually cried: ‘Give, give’.”

This mobilisation of state resources culminated in a vicious, extractive, racially exclusive apartheid economy. Postapartheid SA, by definition, had to do better than this.

economic policy fiscal policy political economy

Beware of predators imitating critics of economic policy

My most recent column, headlined Medium-term budget policy statement bucks boring trend, was published on the day the National Prosecuting Authority issued summons to the finance minister to appear in court in November. By mid-morning, it was clear the column had been overtaken by events.

There is doubt that this week’s medium-term budget policy statement will be no ordinary one, but not for the reasons espoused in the column. There I was, going on about the likely content of the policy statement, when the real action was in the criminal justice system. I expected, as always, that when the statement was delivered, we would witness a well-calibrated, stage-managed process rather than fireworks. I also argued for the limits of fiscal policy in the absence of a clear economic vision from the highest levels of government (that is, beginning with the president) and a capable state.

As the case against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan unfolds, it is worth reflecting on the broader “case” against the Treasury. It is a series of deeply held critiques, mostly from the labour movement and left-leaning academics. Lately, the case has attracted new complainants.

political economy politics

How to find a way back from a state of intrigue

CEASEFIRE is not a word you’d expect to hear when the discussion is about the intergovernmental relations of a country at peace. But speaking at the Nedlac annual summit last week, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a ceasefire between warring sections of the state. If not a ceasefire, the deputy president implored members of the state to act in a way that maintained stability.

For a country battling with complex, pervasive and longstanding challenges, to make progress requires a strong, capable state pursuing a unified vision relentlessly. Yet in big and small ways, the government is fragmented and disorientated. The observation by the deputy president that the state is seemingly at war with itself does not point to something new. The state has been at war with itself for some time, though in less dramatic ways.

We have become accustomed to contradictions where government policy is undermined by the actions of its departments and agencies. These contradictions plague aspects of economic policy, ranging from small business development to broadband policy, where different parts of government sing from different hymn sheets.