Listening to an enthusiastic introduction of acclaimed author Amitav Ghosh’s latest book, a crucial question came to mind: How do (and should) we read books? Are our brains clean canvasses for authors to fill with colours and the medium of their word brush, or do we read through filters of our accumulated insights, always full of prejudices and opinions, ranging from mellow to stringent.
Ghosh leads an unmitigated onslaught on Western culture, economic development, rational analysis and even systematic theorising and science. He becomes the Matthew, Mark and Luke gospel writer for animism and vitalism, with Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth, and the Paradise of Indigenous Harmony his inspiration.
There is an increasingly high risk that South Africa will not by 2025 have recovered to its pre-lockdown levels of GDP. In a research report – Vaccines and re-opening: Covid-19 risks to the 2021 recovery – HSBC, one of the largest banks in the world, indicates that South Africa will not recover as quickly as most of the emerging markets.
HSBC places South Africa in a cluster of countries that will not by end 2022 regain their pre-Covid GDP levels. This list also includes France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Mexico and Argentina. According to HSBC’s estimates the rest of the Eurozone will have recovered by end 2022, with Germany reaching that target by the first quarter of 2022.
The statements of the government and the ANC are as unrealistic as the famous stories of Baron von Münchausen: both are so far from reality that they belong to the genre of heroic fantasy. However, the differences are also glaring. Von Münchausen’s tales are creative untruths, entertaining its hearers because of the skilful transition from reality to absurdity. The ANC’s untruths are serious policy statements, parading absurdity as real truth.
Whereas Von Münchausen’s tales emanate from a witty brain, the ANC’s tales emerge from an institutionally entrenched delusional disorder.
The very first paragraphs of the January 8 declaration suggested the following reality:
“The January 8th Statement… gives inspiration and encouragement…
“The people of this country have entrusted the ANC with the responsibility to… building a better life for all. Over the course of its history, the ANC has lived up to this responsibility.
“In government, the ANC led the reconstruction of our society from the ashes of apartheid misrule.
“Prior to the onset of the global financial crisis, our policies contributed to the revival of our economy, the creation of millions of new jobs, the stabilisation of our public finances and the reduction of poverty.
“(T)hese achievements earned the ANC the confidence and trust of the South African people.”
JSE’s head of equities voices his despair
The ANC has lived up to the responsibility of a better life for all: not even Red Riding Hood will believe that.
The government has stabilised public finances! Not even Tito Mboweni believes that (and if he does, Fitch, S&P and Moodeys don’t).
The centrepiece of the Ramaphosa government’s recovery and economic resuscitation scheme – the loan guarantee fund – is as helpful as giving a desperately hungry infant a dummy, pretending it is food. Not even 5% of formal registered businesses have applied for funding and by end November about 1.8% of these firms have obtained assistance from the scheme.
It is far more affordable to cut Company Income Tax and to raise the VAT threshold to get the economy growing again, than to continue with the current package of the Economic
On the other hand, the government, being out of pocket and not keen on disbursing billions that it would lose if the beneficiaries cannot service the loans, had asked the banks to apply their own existing loan assessment criteria when evaluating the applications. Were it a Khula or a SEFA process, the money would long ago have disappeared. So, despite utterances of concern about the low and slow disbursement process, the president cannot be surprised or concerned that the banks are circumspect.
The government, however, kept its focus on basically two things:
Promoting Covid-19 to the highest pedestal of dangers, wilfully ignoring all other existing problems as well as the additional problems the lockdown strategy would create, and
Pursuing its social engineering efforts to reshape the South African economy in particular, and society at large, by limiting state relief measures to businesses complying with BEE (effectively throttling white sole proprietor businesses to death), deciding which kind of businesses are essential and which not, and pursuing anti-tobacco and prohibition agendas by bans on cigarette and alcohol sales.
If Ramaphosa’s bold plan to restart the economy was a film, the premiere already proved it’s not an ‘out-of-the-box’ blockbuster that will rake in Oscars for economic growth and sustainable job creation. Growth through state-led infrastructure development XXI is a lame sequel fit for an infamous Razzie award.
Like its predecessor – the lengthy National Development Plan – the Economic Reconstruction & Recovery Plan (ERRP) is a sure box office flop.
The ERRP announced by the president after lengthy consultation processes with big business and big labour states “Non-implementation of the ERRP could lead to loss of economic capacity, including collapse of the supply capacity, consumer and business confidence, the labour market and increased vulnerability of the poor. The overall plan aims to mitigate these risks”.
This script suggests its authors live in a make-believe reality: South Africans, whether tax payers or the growing number of unemployed, know consumer and business confidence and employment are not waiting for collapse through the non-implementation of a plan. It has collapsed already and was meticulously crafted by the very same government now purporting to be capable of getting the economy firing on all cylinders again.
SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter’s biggest headache is not the gaping R300 billion crater in tax income this financial year or the growing Everest of assessed losses for companies that will impact negatively on CIT for years to come. His biggest problem is how to convince taxpayers to sustain a government that under the pretext of “a better life for all” has served up a toxic mix of corruption, wastage, mismanagement and anti-growth policies.
In addition, the very same government has doggedly pursued a lockdown strategy not underpinned by much logic that could yield any outcome other than a severe economic disaster with long term humanitarian effects. These effects include shortened lifespans, poverty related deaths, and deaths from medical conditions the government deemed non-essential. The toll of this inept strategy will in all likelihood dwarf the real Covid 19 death toll.
Lockdown has mowed down millions of jobs and several hundred thousand businesses. Those that survived have been severely crippled: they have a radically reduced income, have run up losses or have achieved less than half their previous taxable income.
One recalls the words of Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa, whose theology and philosophy influenced ancient as well as modern thought: “Without justice, what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers?”