As someone who works from home, I occasionally help a friend's teenagers with school assignments. Yesterday's was a list of questions which included: (a) What impedes South Africa's economic progress? and, (ii) What strategies would you recommend government adopt to encourage economic development? I sat up, of course. To have people still at school considering questions like this is very commendable.
Today's news that unemployment accelerated to 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 compounds the urgency of the issue. And the African National Congress (ANC) has voted to pass a motion legitimising expropriating land without compensation (EwC). As an expert at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) has pointed out, the party which proposed the motion and the ANC mean different things by EwC. Which hardly reassures future investors and people who have put millions into their farms, the same farms which together pulled the country out of a potential recession last year.
Political parties -- indeed, revolutions -- happen because people consider that they have the answer which, apparently, everyone else is too stupid to realise! I watch people mouthing phrases that were common in the 1970s and '80s and feel something like a time warp. And then hear others berate something like the social grants in South Africa which have kept food in the stomachs of the poor and saved us from revolution time and time again!
And the international scene is as bad. Treating another country as if its humanity was somehow different to your own and provoking trade or other conflict is immature at best.
It makes one feel the years! Economic systems eventually disappoint. I remember the enthusiasm decades ago when friends at university embraced the "free market" principles of Thatcher and Reagan ... which led to neoliberalism and a scenario where wealth is inexorably siphoned up to the top 1% (whose number is itself dropping!) And socialism, at least as it is practiced in the examples I have been privy to, in turn disappoints.
Economies make me feel like an old man, or someone who thinks he is on a strange planet. That people do not have enough to eat while others have so much wealth that they are patently wasteful is a little bit weird. Here in Johannesburg, drivers look ahead at traffic lights because the number of beggars and those wanting work is overwhelming. Drivers also face the fury of some who feel that the one behind the steering wheel is somehow personally responsible for their being on the street.
Until there is a shift in consciousness -- worldwide -- and a realisation that others are like us, with the same dreams and basic needs like a meal for the day and a roof over their head, we are heading in the wrong direction. It doesn't matter what the nationality, policy or ideology is. It might take decades still for the proverbial penny to drop; unfortunately, we no longer have all the time in the world.