The finance minister Pravin Gordhan is not someone you’d want to take to the U2 concert. He might allow a brief period of foot tapping during one of their 80’s classics, but mostly he’d be working out how much the tour had swelled the country’s coffers and observe the discretionary spending habits of the assembled revellers.
That’s why he’s the head bean counter, and long may that last.
In typical measured, considered, studied, meticulous, and conservative fashion he delivered the Mid Term Budget Policy Statement to the nation, and was universally applauded. Grudgingly by some, but applauded nonetheless.
What is strikingly apparent is that our occasionally maligned country is doing alright thank you very much. We’ve emerged from recession and the economy is forecast by PG to grow 3.5% in 2011. Our budget deficit is shrinking, and our tax revenues have exceeded the February forecasts of R738 billion by almost R30 billion.
That R30 billion won’t be blown on certain ideas favoured by the left, but will be used to accumulate forex reserves and help weaken or stabilise the Rand. On that note, PG has further relaxed exchange control in another step towards complete liberalisation.
Unemployment is our Achilles heel. I’m disturbed that between 2010-2014 there’s a target to create 4.5m jobs because of an expanded public sector works programme. These are not REAL jobs, but ones that are to last on average 100 days, and that’s not good enough. I can create jobs; “Oi you, dig a hole. And you, fill it in”.
What is needed is an active labour ministry that engages with the private sector, and a government that offers every possible break for small businesses, similar to the extraordinary leniency afforded to BEE and tenders. South Africa needs a middle class created by entrepreneurs, not chain gangs leaning on their spades.
Two images from our country stick in my mind this week.
The first was a hideously bloated Presidential relative in a silver shirt entering a music awards ceremony while his mine’s employees battle to secure wages owed.
The other was of our finance minister, diligently steering us to long term prosperity.
Bye-bye bling, it’s time to be boring.
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