Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, August 18, 2006

JP Landman speaks his mind
I've always enjoyed political economist JP Landman's comments on the country, because he always presents a contrarian view to the usual dinner table conversations about progress, crime etc. His latest views reinforce this position, as he talks about the 'lost 25 years' the country has now recovered from.
Contrasting the focus of the media on news events -- including crime and violence -- he argued that trend figures provide a more positive picture of South Africa.

Take, for example, productivity levels. In the 1970s productivity grew by 0,27% a year. This dropped to about 0,18% in the 1980s and stayed much the same in the early part of the 1990s. But since 1995 productivity has risen by between 3% and 4% a year.

Pointing out the South African economy is now 33% bigger than it was at the advent of democracy in 1994, he said it has been able to sustain above-inflation increases for the police force, as has happened in recent years, and raise the funds for the provision of social grants, which are now paid out to 11-million people in the country.

Employment has grown from about 9,5-million jobs in 1995 to 12-million jobs. It is true that four million remained unemployed and "really we want 16-million jobs". However, those jobs cannot be provided by the existing economic cake -- it has to grow.

However, growth figures in the order of 4% and a population growth rate of below 1% indicate that progress is being made at about 3% a year.

Landman noted that academic Servaas van der Berg of the University of Stellenbosch has done fine research into poverty levels. The fact is that 41% of the population live on or below the international poverty line of $1 a day in South Africa. But that figure has dropped from 57% in 1970, he noted. "If that is not steady progress, what is?"

You can read a list of JP's articles here on the bottom left of the page.