A number of South Africa’s leading economists gathered together at the Artscape in Cape Town to pursue a dialogue convened by Professors Thuli Madonsela and Mark Swilling from Stellenbosch University.
Titled Towards a Socially Just and Sustainable Economy, the dialogue sought to bring together the divergent perspectives on the economy, from a social justice and sustainability perspective.
Speakers included former Statistician General Dr Pali Lehohla; Dr Nicky Padaychee; Dr Miriam Altman; Professor Haroon Bhorat; COSATU’s Matthew Parks, Dr Mao Angua Amis from African Centre for a Green Economy; Dr Amiena Bayat, University of the Western Cape; and Professor Fiona Tregenna, University of Johannesburg.
The gathering was a thematic think-tank dialogue convened under the Mosa Plan for Social Justice (Social Justice M-Plan) spearheaded by the Stellenbosch University’s law faculty trust chair in social justice, Professor Madonsela.
The M-Plan seeks to harness academic, business and broader civil society input to catalysing South Africa’s efforts towards ending poverty and reducing structural inequality by 2030 in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the National Development Plan.
Professor Madonsela noted that the Social Justice M-Plan aims “to create tools for leveraging data analytics to predict the likely socio-economic impact of planned policies, laws and programmes, before implementation”.
She added: “Planned changes include improving state capacity for managing existing resources while reinforcing accountability through leveraging the people as the eyes and ears of democracy through social accountability.”
Discussions focused on a deliberate and intentional stewardship of the economy through a very clear economic policy.
Ben Turok delivered a hard-hitting critique of the lack of a clear economic pathway, compounded by what he referred to as the “lost nine years marked by lack of economic direction, state capture and pillaging of public resources”.
Former Statistician General, Dr Pali Lehohla, stressed the importance of evidence-based planning, demonstrating the various gaps between policy intentions and action in public governance processes, mainly using the education sector as a case study.
The dialogue stressed the need for a clear vision for South Africa’s economic direction and progress. The dialogue will be followed up by small expert groups comprising people with diverse points of view who will craft a policy-relevant synthesis paper that defines what needs to be done to achieve a socially just and sustainable economy.
Professor Madonsela’s team will be hosting similar Social Justice M-Plan thematic dialogues in partnership with other academic institutions, business and broader civil society, on Monday April 11, at STIAS in Stellenbosch.