Finance minister Malusi Gigaba appeared in parliament on Tuesday for the first time since his latest appointment‚ saying that inclusive growth was an “urgent priority”.
He told the standing committee on finance that he had had an “interesting last four weeks” since his appointment.
He said the focus for the treasury would now be on driving inclusive growth‚ “trying our very best to avoid another ratings downgrade” and to restore the country’s investment grade rating.
Gigaba said that inclusive growth‚ or radical economic transformation‚ was not a discussion that needed to be feared.
“In our country‚ 10% of the population own 42% of the wealth. We should worry about that. That is unsustainable. Radical economic transformation and inclusive growth is not the biggest of our headaches. Our biggest problem is the unsustainable levels of inequality in our society‚” he said.
Gigaba said those on the outskirts of the economy did not only need jobs‚ but also needed to be able to accumulate economic assets‚ own land and have access to banking services.
Gigaba also defended the reshuffle that landed him at the finance ministry‚ saying that it had little to do with the investment downgrades that followed immediately after.
“At a narrow level‚ yes‚ you would say it had an impact‚ but broadly‚ the South African economy has been in a position of slow growth for quite a number of years and the foreign exchange rate‚ appreciation and depreciation‚ is caused by a number of variables.
“We need to not seek scapegoats but bear in mind that these issues are caused by a number of reasons. The first downgrade happened before the reshuffle itself happened. Even as we arrived on Friday‚ the decision to review our investment grade had already been taken.
“The focus should be to restore investment grade‚ avoid a further downgrade‚ to get the economy growing and focus on exclusive growth.”