Technocrats the next economic game changer


“A technocrat is someone with expertise or a skill level in their field in a respective ministry. They’re not by nature a career politician. A technocrat would be someone like a lawyer, economist, engineer, someone with a professional competence that hasn’t been involved in political campaigns or party politics,” Rand Merchant Bank country risk analyst Ronak Gopaldas told CNBC Africa.

“A prime example is a finance minister who has got an academic or economics background, and who’s potentially worked at the IMF and is now serving in a ministerial capacity.”

Gopaldas added that the real advantage of technocrats as opposed to career politicians is twofold: on the one hand, the time horizon with which technocrats view policy is a lot more longer term. This means that making the difficult and unpopular policy decisions would not be a deterrent, as their focus goes beyond the next election.


“The other thing is they tend to be less ideological in their approach. The overall effect is efficiency is increased, and the policy paralysis and the bureaucratic inertia that affects a lot of the emerging markets will be improved,” he said.

Encouraging the development of technocrats, as well as utilising their expertise on challenges such as slow economic growth and policy, could provide a holistic approach to solving the issues.

With South Africa currently suffering shrinking consumer demand, industrial action and a dismally low economic forecast for the year, a rounded approach to the problems could remedy the current state of affairs.

“On the international front, you’ve got the threat of ratings agencies, Federal tapering, commodity prices being affected. What you really need at this juncture, not only South Africa but in emerging markets in general, is structural reform,” said Gopaldas.

“That’s the buzzword, because the international financial system has exposed these vulnerabilities and cohesive and coherent policies [are] needed.”