Post-election stability key to economic growth and job creation

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2024-05-15
Business In Action

Two weeks from today, we will be casting our votes in what is considered the most pivotal South African elections since the advent of democracy in 1994.

 

This is also a year in which more voters than ever in history — about half the world’s population — will vote in national elections in more than 60 countries, as well as elections for the European Union parliament.

 

All of these elections take place amid global-impacting regional conflicts, sharply divided and widening political differences, worsening socioeconomic conditions and the growing reality of climate change impacts.

 

Globally, 2024 is considered a watershed year for democracy and what happens in these many other countries’ elections will no doubt have various and unpredictable ripple effects, also affecting the South African economy.

 

Locally, the most immediate concern is the outcome of our own national and provincial elections and the impact on the economy.

 

If ever there was a time to apply the adage of “think global, act local”, it is now.

 

As business, government and civil society, we need to consider global influences and opportunities while taking positive action where we are to protect investments and employment, and ensure a conducive, enabling environment to attract global players for new investments and job creation.

 

Building investor confidence relies on stability.

 

Investors looking to longterm growth and sustainability, do not like uncertainty.

 

They want to know the government’s economic plans and policy direction; they want to see those being implemented effectively in a business-friendly environment that reliably delivers basic services, minimises red tape and assures the rule of law.

 

They want to create sustainable employment, in an environment of social stability and safety and security for both their operations and their employees.

 

Events such as the unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal in 2021 spook investors and in the run-up to the May 29 elections remain fresh in the mind.

 

Economists as well as politicians across the spectrum speak of the need for SA to do more to beneficiate our abundant natural resources and minerals, rather than exporting them and being a net importer of finished goods.

 

Views on how to achieve this may differ, but in practical terms this is only going to happen if SA presents an attractive proposition and conducive environment for the kind of large capital investment required for processing of these resources and establishing new manufacturing operations that generate new exporting sectors.

 

The logical result would be employment and income growth, in turn supporting growth in the retail, services and tourism sectors as well as expanding the demand for knowledge economy activities such as technology development, innovation, research and development.

 

For those invested in business — and by this, I mean not only owners and shareholders, but also and especially employees at all levels — we need to stand together for stability, because this is what supports our operations and protects jobs, attracts new investments and enables new enterprises to thrive.

 

Business, not the government, is the creator of jobs. The role of the government is to provide the enabling environment for business to operate and grow.

 

Business is increasingly becoming more self-reliant, for example in energy generation and water supply, and is making strides in working together with the government to address the critical challenges of energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.

 

However, the joint government-business initiatives need to be short- to medium-term, and involve capacity building and skills transfer, so that the government can continue in its role of infrastructure provision, delivery of services and maintenance of law and order — the enabling environment. The outcome of the elections in 14 days’ time remains uncertain and not wholly predictable.

 

However, what we need as business, once the dust has settled and a government is formed, is for sense and stability to prevail.

 

As business and citizens of SA, after May 29 we need more than ever for political leaders, both in power and in opposition, to move past campaign rhetoric and conflicts and put working for the greater good of the country first.

 

The bottom line? The country must work to get the people of the country working.