The startling reality about South Africa is that wealth remains highly concentrated – 95% of it is in the hands of 10% of the population. The bottom 20% have benefited from social grants and better access to services, the top 20% from the rising demand for skills and pay increases while those in the middle have been left behind. Unless this is urgently dealt with South Africa is facing a severe crisis.
This was the main message of South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2017 Budget, which repeatedly highlighted the need for radical transformation aka inclusive growth.
Gordhan argued that perhaps “in the face of such intractable economic hardships and disparities” the time has come to supplement the country’s Constitutional Bill of Rights with a ‘Charter of Economic Rights’”.
Something needs to be done to lift the “Missing Middle” to prosperity, poor people need to be given the opportunity to assemble assets – the status quo cannot continue, he argued. We need to look at how do we grow the economy with a greater sense of urgency?
According to his Budget speech the charter would bind South Africans to an economy which:
- Provides access to decent and well remunerated jobs,
- Facilitates training and retraining of citizens in the face of technological change, and
- Creates a supportive environment for micro, small and medium businesses and cooperatives.