Monday, February 7, 2011

DA Today in a nutshell 7 February 2011

7 February 2011

A Weekly Newsletter from the Leader of the
Democratic Alliance:

Job creation requires tough choices

Nobody was surprised when President Zuma started the year by declaring 2011 the “year of job creation”. Job creation will again be a key theme of his State of the Nation Address next week. Before every election, the ANC ramps up its jobs rhetoric. It knows that unemployment is the issue that South Africans care most about.

So does the DA. Policies that encourage job creating economic growth must be South Africa’s top priority. This has always been the centrepiece of DA policy in government and in opposition. Our policies are designed to make it easier to create a job and easier to get a job.

It is good to start with a national consensus that job creating economic growth is South Africa’s top priority. The debate should be about how best this can be achieved. What is rarely understood is that choosing a policy priority has consequences for every decision we make in government. And far too often the priority is undermined by other decisions, which may seem unrelated, but have profound implications for job creation.

The DA believes that when hard policy choices have to be made, we must always ask what the impact will be for job creating economic growth. This is the case even for policy decisions in portfolios that seem entirely unrelated. It is far too easy to displace a priority by expedient decision making.

We have to judge the ANC’s commitment to economic growth by what it does, rather than by what it says. What choices does it make when there is a tough trade off?

Let’s examine one example that may seem unrelated to the issue of job creation: foreign policy.

Nothing would do more to boost the regional economy than a sustainable and stable democratic solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. This would enhance international confidence in the region, enable an important trading partner’s economy to recover, and attract massive investment.

Yet the ANC’s foreign policy is aimed primarily at shielding Robert Mugabe from this outcome. This choice directly undermines the prospects of job creating economic growth.

As Zuma said in his January 8 statement this year:

The ANC has strong party-to-party relations with former liberation movements in the SADC region and other parts of the continent. We will continue to enhance these relations in order to contribute towards deepening progressive political thought in the continent and globally.

This week, despite strong protest from Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, President Zuma recognised Mugabe’s unilateral appointment of a new high commissioner to South Africa, Phelekezela Mphoko. At the “credentials ceremony” Mphoko said:

Your country, South Africa, has proved to be an all-weather friend to Zimbabwe and has refused to support the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and has instead demanded their immediate removal.

Being an “all-weather friend” to authoritarian rulers is clearly more important to the ANC than promoting economic growth. This is the prism through which to judge the President’s commitment to job creation. Clearly, the ANC has higher priorities.

The same applies to another ANC policy that takes precedence over economic growth -- cadre deployment. This remains holy writ to the ANC, as President Zuma again emphasised in his New Year address:

We reiterate what we said in our 2007 Strategy and Tactics document that we place a high premium on the involvement of our cadres in all centres of power... We also need their presence and involvement in key strategic positions in the state as well as the private sector, and will continue strategic deployments in this regard.

Again, cronyism trumps economic growth as a policy priority. Cadre deployment is one of the key reasons for the collapse of local government service delivery. No business will invest in a town or city without reliable basic services.

Furthermore, cadre deployment to state institutions that are supposed to be independent (such as the National Prosecuting Authority and Chapter 9 institutions) undermine confidence in our criminal justice system. Shrien Dewani’s defence team has spotted this gap and is using it in a most expedient and self-serving way. They are trying to prevent his extradition by putting our criminal justice system on trial. This could do serious damage to our prospects for growth. The importance of entrenching the independence of all our state institutions cannot be over-emphasised if we wish to consolidate our democracy and a sustainable growth path.

Finally, we have to measure the ANC’s commitment to job creation by the laws that have a direct impact on employment. Here lies the starkest contradiction between what the ANC says and what it does.

Despite the fact that the government’s own expert consultants warned that the four new labour Bills would put over 2-million jobs at risk, there are forces in the tripartite alliance that are determined to press ahead with them.

But a new narrative is emerging within the ANC which recognises that getting people to work (who often have very few skills) is more important than outlawing temporary employment, or focusing on conditions of service. The debate over these two divergent approaches is raging within the tripartite alliance.

Equally, there is growing polarisation around whether the state or the private sector is best placed to drive job creation. There are genuinely people who believe that government must create more bureaucratic jobs to reduce unemployment. There are others who believe that the role of government is to create an environment conducive to investment and job creation.

This debate is unlikely to be resolved because it represents two conflicting ideological positions in the ANC’s “broad church”. And in the end, the ruling party’s very top priority is holding together the alliance. This, above all, is likely to paralyse its commitment to job creation.

Hard choices cannot be avoided. And Jacob Zuma’s success thus far has been based on his ability to side-step such choices.

But time is now running out. People are losing patience with rhetorical commitments. 2011 will be the year in which we see whether the President is really prepared to make job creation his priority, or whether it will be displaced by the ANC’s established “default positions” after the election.

Yours Sincerely,

Helen Zille

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