‘Get talking about the economy’

Addressing causes of SA’s grim situation a national responsibility, expert advises

It is our national responsibility, which includes everyone from students to ordinary citizens, to talk about our economic challenges and about avoiding further ratings downgrades.

This was the passionate call made by one of South Africa’s most respected economists, Dr Iraj Abedian, who was the guest speaker at a Strategic Conversation event hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Business School yesterday.

“South Africa’s growth has been hampered by neglect, incompetence and technical incompetence.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to talk about this, not in a rude or violent manner, but it is a national responsibility to discuss this,” Abedian said to a packed Business School auditorium in Summerstrand.

Abedian delivered his presentation against three primary threads – the youth and their new way of thinking, technology and how it is changing the nature of companies and economies, and the huge challenges being presented by indebtedness.

“There are people and leaders who are trying to solve 21st-century problems with 19th-century thinking,” he said several times.

Abedian painted a grim picture of the challenges facing the global and the South African economy.

He cited the lack of ethical leadership, technology disrupters, income inequality at unsustainable levels, and rising indebtedness at a global and local level as among the biggest challenges being faced.

“These challenges have been caused by individualism, in that people are only thinking of themselves; materialism, in that having things is now the new measure of one’s success; and nationalism – which is another new societal challenge taking root in countries all around the world.

“The problem with nationalism is that it divides people, it splits populations in countries.”

Adding prejudice to his list of causes, he said this included all prejudices from race to religion.

“You would have thought, in 2017, that slavery was dead. Slavery is still a major problem in the world,” he said.

“In India there are women and girls being buried alive because of prejudices. Look how women are treated in the Middle East.

“Prejudice is embedded in the system and it impacts heavily on economies.”

On global debt levels, he said debt was at 225% of global GDP.

“In financial language, this is a ticking time bomb.”

Of the government’s so-called radical economic transformation policy, he said he had heard a number of different definitions from politicians. “Behold the confusion,” he remarked.

“If it means what the words say, then we need it.

“We cannot ignore the fact that 45% of households in South Africa are impoverished.

“If it means the government will downsize the bloated civil service, that ministers will get rid of their drivers and bodyguards and all the other wasteful expenditure, then we need it.

“Then I love it – but it will have to start with all those who say ‘Do as I say’ and not ‘Do as I do’.”

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