Government should be less dismissive of Business – given its own record for business disaster

The Manufacturing Indaba is becoming established as a leading forum for discussion of issues affecting the besieged SA manufacturing sector, which has been in decline for some time.

Industry body Manufacturing Circle says 1m jobs could be created if the sector were restored to its rightful place, contributing a far higher share of GDP.

So, it was rather surprising that after a meeting with the manufacturing bosses at the Indaba last week, that Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies described their plans as “smoke and mirrors”.

Given that the dramatic decline in South African manufacturing has occurred under Rob Davies and his predecessors, it is both unfortunate and disturbing that he was so dismissive of the Manufacturing Circle. He did say he was open to more dialogue. But his message was mixed.

The Manufacturing Circle’s strategy involves the reversal of the decline in the Vaal Triangle, once a heartland of industrial activity.   It also includes a skills initiative, targeting middle management.

And the body holds regular meetings with ministers and officials, for instance to give input on the planning stages of new industrial incentives, or to criticise loony new tax plans – like the new sugar tax.

Maybe business and government aren’t so far apart.  Is it just a matter of mutual respect and good manners?

The timekeeping of ministers and officials is pretty dire, although Davies is better than most.  He appeared to chop and change the time of his own address in the run up to the Indaba, and the event and its fringe SME forum started late on three days out of three. This was due to the late arrival of municipal officials, who then proceeded to give speeches on how wonderful Ekurhuleni is for business.   One MMC even gave an almost identical speech two days in a row, which included a ten-point plan for industrial regeneration.

By the time I had digested this ten-point plan for a second time, I was driven to launch my own ten-pint plan.

These municipal officials say they want their own University.  A good idea, if it provides courses in good manners and timekeeping.

In contrast, the Chairman of the Manufacturing Circle was spotted well over an hour before the start of the Indaba, ensuring his own slide presentation was going to work well, eager to get things moving.

The sour note hit by Rob Davies was a shame, as this Manufacturing Indaba was better organised and better structured than in the past, and even the catering was improved.

We see time and again that Government’s record in business is a disgrace – just look at corrupt state train tenders, the record losses at PetroSA, the continued scandal of mismanagement at SABC and SAA, and so on…….

So, a little more humility, a greater willingness to listen and to learn, might be welcome.

Rob Davies may think he knows it all.  But he doesn’t.


Tweet of the Day

Terry F (@daemonic3):  [superfriends lunch]: BATMAN: There’s an underwater nuclear threat

SUPERMAN: Aquaman, go!

AQUAMAN: [stares at watch] Gotta wait 30 minutes


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