No time for politics now, save the economy and our country!

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy will cause further deterioration of not only the South African economy but the regional and global economy as well.

Moody’s is accurate in its observation that initiatives actioned by the state to implement structural reforms and initiatives aimed at firing up the economy did not have any meaningful effect.

The obsession to ‘save’ an ailing state-owned enterprise such as SAA and the haphazard approach to clamp down on poorly governed and managed state-owned enterprises are indicative of government’s inability and unwillingness to lay down the gauntlet and implement the required structural reforms.

The South African economy can no longer be held hostage by labour unions, political factions within the ruling party and ill-conceived government policies that cause more uncertainty and harm to the economy.

Agri SA appeals to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni to lead the charge and put measures in place to bring government debt under control, to implement cost-cutting measures, to dispose of SAA and other poorly performing SOE’s, to reduce government’s salary bill and to clamp down on non-delivery by state departments and local government entities.

Moody’s has estimated that SA's debt burden will reach 91% of GDP in the 2023 fiscal year. South Africa’s fiscal strength is further compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to research by Bloomberg Economics, South Africa will be one of the top ten countries worst affected by the coronavirus. China is South Africa's biggest export market, with almost R180 billion in South African good exported in 2019. Nedbank has calculated that a 10% decline in exports from South Africa to China could hit GDP growth by 38 basis points.

The economy is currently in a very bad place, with government finances and households stretched to the limit. However, the resilience of the private sector and the South African nation can turn the tide. Agri SA calls on the government to work hand in hand with the private sector to create conducive circumstances to save our economy.

For this to happen, all legislation or government programmes that cause uncertainty, stymie investment, inhibit economic freedom and that prevent talented South Africans of all backgrounds to be appointed in government positions to bring about a capable state, must be repealed. South Africa’s economy needs all hands on deck. Universal human rights such as ownership must be strengthened and expanded.

Property ownership protects the economic human rights to adequate food and freedom from hunger. The right to own property is also crucial to the economic development necessary to ensure that human beings can supply themselves with food and otherwise support themselves. As such, it is a strategic human right, a right that protects other rights.

The ability of the commercial agricultural sector to step up to the challenge to supply the country with food during the lockdown period bears testimony to the importance of property rights and the need to honour and protect it at all times. The agricultural sector will be key in getting us out of this mess – and policy certainty is now no longer debatable.

The horse has bolted - together we must save the economy.

Christo van der Rheede
Agri SA Deputy Executive Director
(C) 083 380 3492