South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni heads to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week ready to tell world leaders that South Africa does have electricity – despite what they may have read in the papers – but also ready to admit that the country is lagging in its economic reform.
The outspoken finance minister will field questions in the Swiss ski resort – where 30,000 delegates will gather next week – resort from everyone from presidents to the heads of multinational companies about everything from reform the economy of Zimbabwe. The South African mission is bent on networking with international investors and journalists asked Mboweni at a breakfast in Rosebank, Johannesburg, Thursday about how difficult will this be for a country struggling to maintain its electricity supply.
“When we are asked why there is no electricity in South Africa our answer is going to be that this is not true. Yes, we are experiencing load shedding while Eskom fixes this… You cannot be a doom day sayer and say there is not electricity in South Africa. It is not true and that is the approach we will take,” says Mboweni.
“We don’t want to go and lie to people if you lie to people you get caught.”
The finance minister also said the unbundling of the national power generator Eskom into generation, transmission, distribution entities was moving forward and be financed from the state budget and not the printing of money.
Yet Mboweni was scathing about failing state owned enterprises in general.
“We will tell in Davos of the determined effort to put state owned enterprises on a good path, those which do work, those that don’t work should get out of the way.”
The finance minister also admitted that the structural reforms of South Africa, promised with the advent of President Cyril Ramaphosa two years ago, are behind and he expects questions about this in Davos.
“They will ask about the Reserve Bank and I will tell them the Reserve Bank will stay independent and serve the needs of the people without fear nor favour. We will also tell them that it is honest to say the pace of structural reforms is not the way we want it to be so we must speed up,” says Mboweni.
Economic development minister Ebrahim Patel said South Africa could report back to Davos on progress on a number of promises made in Switzerland last year. He said the business portal – a one stop shop for entrepreneurs – had made setting up and registering a business in South Africa much quicker.