In his 2018 State of the Nation Address,
President Cyril Ramaphosa committed to set South Africa on a new growth path towards inclusive development.
“As we pursue higher levels of economic growth and investment, we need to take additional measures to reduce poverty and meet the needs of the unemployed.
This year, we will be initiating measures to set the country on a new path of growth, employment and transformation,” he said.
This statement is a direct challenge to the conventional belief that we have achieved progress thanks to growth.
The evidence is much more nuanced. As a matter of fact, Tabea Kabinde,
Chairperson of the Employment Equity Commission,
launched a devastating report in June 2018 that demonstrates a deterioration in the representation of blacks
in positions of leadership from 14.4% in 2017 to 14.3% in 2018.
This, at a time that the country and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) are calling for the redoubling of efforts, is not only disappointing but sad, tragic and regrettable.
Statistics like these defeat nation-building and prolong the journey towards social cohesion.
Countries that succeeded in achieving high levels of human development, from Scandinavia to South Korea, did so because of purposeful restrictions on the growth-at-all-costs model.
They pursued income and wealth redistribution, protected families and communities,
guaranteed a good work–life balance and invested heavily in social welfare.
The simple fact of massive inequality compels us to rethink the conventional growth path. But what does inclusive growth mean?
Obviously, the idea that the ‘pie’ can grow indefinitely is alluring.
It means everybody can have a share without limiting anybody’s greed, which is the underlying driving force of modern societies.
A rising tide lifts all boats: while the rich get richer, the poor are also expected to benefit from what trickles down.
The reality, however, is that very little trickles down from the wealthy to the poor.
The reason is that the poor, who struggle to operate in the new ‘growth economy’, where everything has a price and money dominates social relations, are kicked out of the system.
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