Extraordinary measures are required to alleviate the deep problems in the South African economy – in this president Cyril Ramaphosa was correct. Lacking in his state of the nation address were precisely those measures.
It is, understandably, difficult for the head of a political party to acknowledge that many of his party’s policies are primary causes of key ailments listed in his address. Still, what was needed was not a rephrasing of lofty goals heard before, inspirational quotes, or unaffordable and distracting speculations about some new city. Nor was it encouraging to hear the president suggesting an entrepreneurial role for the state in the very speech bemoaning the state’s incapacity and recent experiences of corruption and self-enrichment.
What remains, more than a year into his term, is for president Ramaphosa to demonstrate leadership as head of state: to repeal, reconsider, suspend, or announce exemptions from failed government programmes and legislation. These include the National Minimum Wage and sectoral minimum wages, Black Economic Empowerment, government monopolies on energy generation, among many more. Moreover, in a time of severe fiscal stress it is more important than ever to announce how money will be saved before announcing new initiatives and further bail-outs running into the billions of rand.
We welcome the president’s restatement of the constitutional mandate and independence of the Reserve Bank. While his reservedness on the proposed constitutional amendment for expropriation without compensation adds no further uncertainty to the market, here too was a missed opportunity to reinvigorate business confidence.
We welcome that the president tried to ring an inclusive bell. All in all, however, the president’s plan lacks a plan.