South African democracy has now come of age. We stood in long queues for the first time in 1994, full of hopes and dreams of a South Africa we can all proudly call our home. A place where opportunities wouldn’t be a pipe-dream, but a reality that could be reached when one applies themselves.
Amartya Sen in his Book, “Development as Freedom” persuasively argues that freedom is at once the ultimate goal of social and economic arrangements and the most efficient means of realizing general welfare.
Madam speaker, even though our people today have a right to vote, which is something hard won, this hasn’t really freed them. Most in South Africa may not be technically speaking “slaves”, they are denied elementary freedom and remain imprisoned in one way or another by economic poverty, social deprivation, political tyranny or cultural authoritarianism. My colleagues have or will talk on the other contributes. I will today focus on the Economic aspect of the equation.
Events taking place in our country of late demonstrate the growing discontent amongst the unemployed, especially black youth who mainly lives in terrible conditions, feel that, after 21 years of freedom, nothing has changed for them. It’s true. If anything, things have become worse for them. Unemployment is soaring. Food prices are increasing, inflation is sky-high. And crime just keeps getting worse.
The question is then asked “What will it take to realize economic freedom in our lifetime?”
The way we answer this question, will decide the destiny of our country, good or bad. This requires open minds, honesty and intellectual curiosity. No one who cares about South Africa can shy away from it.
People who feel like equals tend to behave like equals. This is why equality of opportunity is the best way to achieve reconciliation and the total freedom we so wish for.
The truth is that the majority of South Africa’s people in 2015 have a legitimate claim to economic redress. Economic inequality is wider than it was in 1994. If we do not redress this, reconciliation – how we relate to one another – is put at risk.
It flows from this that economic freedom, which we precisely define as equality of access to economic opportunity, will only be attained with large scale growth and job creation.
Some people like to talk about “redistribution” as if it is an instant cure for our society’s ills. We saw some organizing jobless youth to march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), his pretext being that if JSE listed companies “gave” their profits to jobless young people, this would provide economic freedom. Those are the ones who use populist rhetoric about “expropriation without compensation” and “mine nationalisation”. What this group failed to comprehend is that without growth, redress and reconciliation will be consigned to oblivion. We would just be slicing up a shrinking pie.
The solution cannot be to make the rich poorer. It must be to make the rules of the game fairer, and to extend opportunities for those who cannot access them today, this madam speaker, will lead to the true economic freedom which we will see in our lifetime.
The push should therefore should be to create jobs by building many new job creators. The DA’s Growth and Jobs Plan says that we cannot fix South Africa’s economy where it is broken until we create the wealth to invest in education and health.
To build this society requires changes to our economy that will challenge the status quo. We will need to break down the monopolies that keep the cost of living high.
We need to promote greater competition in the economy so that the cost of things like food and clothing comes down.
Building this society requires breaking down the high costs and bureaucratic red tape facing strangling would-be-entrepreneurs and small businesses. And it will mean making it easier for people to access credit so that they can grow and prosper.
Most new jobs in the world today are created by small businesses and innovative companies. This is also how we will dramatically cut youth unemployment.
There is much more that needs to be done to build an inclusive economy. Our Jobs plan say:
We want to distribute shares in the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and release ‘dead capital’ by putting financial assets into the hands of poor South Africans.
Hundreds of thousands of South Africans must be enabled to make financially sound bids to acquire individual or collective shares in SOES, and in this way, become real shareholders in South Africa Limited.
We can really liberate our Nation, question is, are we willing?