When finance minister Malusi Gigaba delivers his first Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in Parliament on 25 October 2017, it will provide him with the opportunity to reveal whether his supposed commitment to ‘radical economic transformation’ and ‘inclusive growth’ is a anything more than rhetoric.
The South African Federation Trade Unions is confident that he will be exposed as a fake. He may use a few ‘radical’ phrases and lament South Africa’s sad ”legacy of left-behind people”, as he recently called the poor, but his policy will be just a new bottle for the same old rancid wine of World Bank-inspired neoliberalism.
It will be ‘business as usual’ with assurances to rich investors that their money is safe with him while the poor will be left even further behind.
Any seriously radical budget statement has to be brutally honest about the economic catastrophe which his government, including his predecessors at the Treasury, have bequeathed to him and not pretend that a bit of tinkering with the budget will rectify it.
He would have to explain why South Africa’s 36.6% unemployment rate (by the more accurate expanded definition) is one of the highest in the world, in which the average rate is just 6%. Or why most youths between aged 20 and 24 are unemployed, 55% of young women have no job and most unemployed young people have never had one at all.
Then he would be obliged to account for the figures from StatsSA’s report on “Poverty trends in South Africa” which show that in 2015 one in three South Africans lived on less than R797 per month, or half of the country’s 2015 mean annual household income of R19, 120.
And, bearing on mind, as Statistician General Pali Lehohla has said, that “The key driver of poverty is unemployment” he would have to admit that since 2015 the current job-loss bloodbath has pushed thousands more workers and their dependents into poverty, like the 113 000 jobs we lost between the first and second quarters of 2017, which will have plunged over a million more people who depend on their wages into poverty.
Furthermore this champion of ‘transformation” would have to clarify how his ‘radical’ ruling party has been presiding over the most unequal society in the world, and, as we saw in the report by Deloitte accountants, one where the average pay of executives in the country’s top 100 companies is now R17.97 million a year – R69 000 a day, or the reality that CEOs earn on average 541 times the country’s per capita GDP, way higher than in the US (483:1) and the UK (229:1).
As the holder of the country’s purse-strings, he would also have to explain why we still have the two-tier provision of vital services in education, health-care, sanitation, security and public transport, which we were bequeathed by apartheid, and the appalling levels of service in a country where the rich minority elite enjoy world-class service provision while the black majority suffer squalor, incompetence and contempt by a system which has left the behind.
He will not of course be willing able to explain any of this crisis which has been taking place under the watch of his government and ruling party which, just like the minister, has for 23 years have been talking about the need for ‘radical economic transformation’, while carrying out economic policies based on a capitalist free market and neoliberal policies like GEAR and the NDP which have led to the exact opposite – soaring levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty.
Even more crucially, a finance minister who is remotely serious about transformation, would have to tell parliament that he will be powerless to do anything to advance economic growth, create jobs or reduce poverty, while the country is in the stranglehold of a corrupt, criminal band of looters in both the public and private sectors who are bleeding the country dry, bankrupting state-owned enterprises and capturing key constitutional and legal structures, so that they can act with impunity.
And if he were to be unbelievably honest, he would have to concede that these massive obstacles to economic advance are not just criminal aberrations within a fundamentally sound economy, but that they are symptoms of a diseased monopoly capitalism system that is inherently corrupt and inegalitarian. It is based on the capitalists’ greed for profit, stolen from the value created by the workers and regardless of any other consideration than to make themselves even richer.
The reality is of course that Gigaba will be silent about all these matters, since he is himself deeply implicated in all of them. He is a major part of the problem rather than the bringer of a solution! To expect any positive solutions is to expect a fire-fighter to dowse the inferno with a flame-thrower.
SAFTU is therefore confident that on Wednesday we can expect nothing more than a few nice-sounding gestures to disguise the fact that his MTBPS will have been inspired, off not drafted, by the credit-rating agencies.
Workers will have to look elsewhere for genuine radical economic transformation and the overthrow of white monopoly capital and SAFTU will be at the forefront of the battle to bring it about, based on its socialist policies for the full implementation of the Freedom Charter, and the nationalization of the commanding height go the economy under workers’ democratic control.
That is the only way to provide a way out of the misery and despair which the majority of South Africans are facing every day, the corruption and mismanagement of the country’s resources and our descent into a failed state. This is real ‘radical economic transformation’!