It is all too easy to criticise. The true patriot is able to say what is wrong, and what should be done to improve things. That is why it is so refreshing to hear the views of the South African Institute for Race Relations’ outgoing CEO John Kane-Berman, who has outlined his 12 point plan for reform. He is giving a number of presentations around the country, and ZA Confidential caught up with him in Johannesburg. No irony in the fact this was delivered on bonfire night.
John noted that the 20th anniversary of democracy is approaching, and while the Institute recently got into trouble with the DA when it pointed out where the country has improved, there is apparently still no end in sight to corruption, poor schooling and healthcare, and rising unemployment. “We are heading in the wrong direction with more policies of the kind that have done damage to investment and growth,” he warned. And he outlined a 12-point plan for reform:
1). Top of list of 12 is: going for growth, as the overriding priority. Only faster economic growth offers hope to our 8m unemployed. China and India have achieved the most in bringing people out of poverty – with growth at an annual average of 8%.
2). Liberalize the labour market – it is about the least efficient on this planet. The denial to any man of the opportunity to learn a living is one of the very worst violations of human rights in the world. What ZA needs as part of labour law liberalisation is a constitutional amendment which protects the right to work.
3). Education. Black parents have almost given up on hope the government can fix the majority of township schools. The solution is privatisation of government schools or as many as possible. They should be auctioned off to the private sector. Township schools could also be sold to the NGO sector. Each child would be given a voucher to buy education. About R10 000 per pupil/year. India has hundreds of thousands of private schools.
4). Health. Same principle would apply – the state pays for health care but the private sector will provide. John noted that a private ambulance had to save Nelson Mandela when his army ambulance broke down when he was being rushed to Pretoria for treatment.
5). Privatisation of all of ZA’s state-owned companies, starting with SAA, which is nothing more than a government vanity project. Government has no business being in business – they are able to offload their losses on to the taxpayer. All of Eskom’s power stations could be sold to private investors.
6). Wholesale deregulation – unshackle the private sector. Economic restrictions should be kept to the absolute minimum. Markets are more objective, freer of bias, possessed of more info than a bureaucrat and able to reverse wrong decisions. Markets can’t be bribed.
7). Trade liberalisation. Free trade means greater prosperity.
8). Re-design land reform. Transfer all communally-owned land to its occupants, as the national party government transferred thousands of houses in the townships. Put a stop to the restitution process. The few outstanding claims could be settled by financial compensation, which is the choice of 92% of claimants.
9). Re-design of policies to assist the disadvantaged. Policies should not focus on previous race-based disadvantage but on current disadvantage. There is no need for race to play any role. Social grants are already colour blind. If you get rid of employment equity you would rapidly be able to revitalise the public service.
10). The professionalisation of the civil service, not least the police. No longer cadre deployment. You need accountability.
11). Cut the numbers in the national assembly.
12). Decentralisation. Devolve power from the centre to most appropriate level of government. Cities and provinces would compete for business.
John said that all of this necessitates an about-turn from our current policy thrust. However, he noted that we sit with growth around 3%. We still have low rankings in many international surveys. He said business in SA has for too long been on the defensive. It should be much more aggressive in putting the case for growth and in demanding the space to pursue that growth.
Impressive stuff. But I have a sinking feeling that the iceberg is looming and there may not be much appetite for these measures to save the ship.
Tweets of the Day:
Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow (https://twitter.com/TheEllenShow) ): It’s a special time of year in L.A., when people start raking up their fake leaves and putting down their fake snow.
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