Defend Truth


We must remodel our economic systems to leverage the pandemic and global economic crises


Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was raised by his determined maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate type), with exposure in the public sector, management consulting, advisory and private sector. The focus of his work is about enabling equity, justice and leveraging public policy effectively. He had a stint in the South African party-political environment and found the experience a deeply educational one.

Now is the time to lean into the conversation and consider how the Covid-19 and global economic crises can be fully leveraged to create a world (and economic reality) that is better, more equitable and far more integrated.

South Africa continues to be weighed down by the slow pace of reform, ineffective politicians and what appears to be a chronic lack of ability, acumen and drive to address our structural challenges. 

These challenges perpetuate South Africa’s declining quality of life. 

Their pervasive nature has created a spiralling downward trend where inequality has deepened and extended its tentacles; joblessness remains one of the greatest challenges of our generation and poverty continues to rob people of opportunity and promise.

South Africans are fatigued by the perpetual inability of our government to articulate an alternative vision. This remains true across all spheres of government where the pace of change and action remains ineffective and, in some instances, even diabolical. 

The structural realities of the lived South African experience are both dire and well documented, yet the lack of urgency with which our government reacts seems to be the major stumbling block to any real change.

The capitalistic structures across the world – here in South Africa, across the continent and in the US – are in turmoil. The turmoil that was not caused by the impact of Covid-19, but rather turbocharged and starkly highlighted to reflect a world that is unfair, unjust and oftentimes cruel.

Mariana Mazzucato, a leading economist globally (albeit often boxed in as simply a left-leaning economist) has pushed the envelope with a focus of saving capitalism from itself, suggesting that “innovation is an outcome of a massive collective effort – not just from a narrow group of young white men in California. If we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we’d better understand that”.

In fact, President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019 appointed Mazzucato to his Economic Advisory Council, and yet the question lingers: where is the thought leadership and work of this council and how is it informing the structural rebuilding and reconstruction required in order to confront the deep structural problems and flaws of our existing economic dispensation?

The recent steps undertaken by the presidential employment stimulus, and in particular the project management office in Ramaphosa’s private office, as well as Operation Vulindlela, are crucial steps in introducing new alternatives, particularly in the policy space – but the fundamental pitfall is that structural change must take place, and it must be tackled with even more urgency and commitment.

Representation is often neglected not only in the framing of public policy solutions, but in economic policy and dialogue. We have a unique opportunity to reflect closer to home around how we develop ecosystems, and in particular ecosystems of excellence and opportunity. 

We cannot believe that innovation and ideation are the home of elite pockets of an educated few.

Incubators and ecosystems that incentivise ideation and innovation are important policy interventions, but what is crucial in this moment is to consider how we extend access. 

We must be intentional about making the room far larger – the kraal must be extended, replicated and focused on modelling diversity in all its forms – and the digital tools available should not be inhibitors, but rather enablers.

Covid-19 has impacted the globe in profound ways, criss-crossing our borders and forever shifting how we think about the economy (including the political economy of our nation-states), our healthcare systems and corporate headquarters.

Unfortunately, the impact of this health crisis has also highlighted – and in some cases starkly accelerated or deepened – poverty, joblessness and inequality. 

South Africa, like many other nation-states, continues to struggle under the stark consequences of this global pandemic that has exacerbated our socioeconomic circumstances, but also further frayed and eroded our social cohesion.

Collectively, society would be served by reconsidering the fundamentals of what we have taken for granted, while confronting stereotypes and challenging damaging assumptions. 

We all have a role in our businesses and organisations and, indeed, in governments to push beyond monopolistic systems of both thinking and structure – crucial tools in a world that has not only been shaped but forever shifted by Covid-19. 

Now is the time to lean in to the conversation and consider how this crisis can be fully leveraged to create a world (and economic reality) that is better, more equitable and far more integrated.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” goes Winston Churchill’s popular policymaking maxim – one that has been used as an effective public policy tool before. 

We only need to look to the 2008 financial crisis where governments across the world adopted a public policy tool of injecting more than $3-trillion into the financial system. 

Governments across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa have adopted similar tools attempting to manage their way through the impact of Covid-19. 

The efficacy of those measures has not always been as effective as the tools utilised during the 2008 financial crisis, which was caused largely by fractured public policy approaches and interventions.

Fragmentation, like inequality, has been turbocharged by the erosion of social cohesion and more recently by the ongoing pressure that Covid-19 is placing on public policy as well as private and public sector interventions. 

Fragmentation has highlighted that there is indeed something amiss with our capitalistic systems, but the polarisation of our society, and thinking, has meant that positions championed by policymakers, leaders and indeed economists like Mazzucato, have often simply been written off by those who are unwilling to hear the clarion message being emphasised by a world completely disrupted by a global health crisis.

Public policy has a crucial role to play in shifting our economic framing and structuring and may prove to be the only effective means to save capitalism from itself

We can rely on the unique example of how large tech companies are funded and enabled by public money, but also by sound public policy.

We must push beyond binaries, polarisation and trope-thinking – and the only way to do so is by modelling alternatives – alternatives that can lift generations into opportunity and prosperity. 

We need to create wealth and, at the same time, focus on redistribution and more equitable access and representation within the existing economy – but also look at creating new economies. We can do both. In fact, we must do both.

Binaries must be rejected, especially after enduring Covid-19. DM


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