Bargain Black Businessmen? At R1bn each.

I was quite good at maths when I was at school, but these days I sometimes find it difficult to comprehend large numbers. Hence my bafflement with an announcement at the Manufacturing Indaba this week by deputy dti Minister Mzwandile Masina. The Deputy-Minister told the conference that government has set a target of R100 billion to support its Black Industrialists (BI) programme.
Now we have been told that this is designed to transform South African industry, due to a concern that there are too many white faces, and too few black ones, at the top of SA manufacturing. Government’s target is 100 new BIs. A great plan, seemingly.
But wait a minute! Even with my fading mathematical skills, if this means they will be spending R100 billion for 100 BIs, then public spending will be at a rate of R1 billion per BI.
Of course, that is splendid news for the 100 BI candidates, whose enterprises will be projected to a level of prosperity which will make the average lottery winner seem like a poverty-struck peasant in rural KZN. (Nkandla residents are self-evidently excluded from this analogy).
Government plans to accomplish its BI billionaire boost by focusing State grants and incentives on black candidates, by making them better beneficiaries of public procurement, and so on.
Of course the success and justification for this scheme begins to crumble when one considers whether or not government is best placed to pick winners in business, and when wonders how many of the winners from this scheme will be closely connected to President Zuma and his ANC. The Deputy Minister did give an assurance there will be no nepotism or cronyism, but when there is a budget of R100 billion, temptation may over-ride integrity.
It goes without saying that we welcome every effort to foster the emergence of capable, entrepreneurial, successful – and black – business leaders.
It just seems that this R100 billion plan is going to cost the rest of us a hell of a lot.

Tweets of the Day:
Stephen Grant (@stephencgrant): My new thesaurus is not only poor, it’s really poor. Very very poor.
Mark Twain (@TheMarkTwain): It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.

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