Economists to engage on SA’s public policy issues
Pretoria – Some of South Africa’s best minds are congregating at National Treasury’s Public Economics Winter School at the University of Pretoria campus this week, to find solutions to the country's economic problems.
The five-day long winter school is a first for South Africa. It will explore three themes: tax policy, industrial economic competitiveness, and health reform and social security policy. The programme will host almost 100 top-performing postgraduate economics students from 14 South African universities as well as local and international experts.
The winter school will provide an opportunity for Treasury to build relationships with universities, said Andrew Donaldson, deputy director general and acting head of the Government Technical Advisory Centre. It will also give students of public economics exposure to some of the challenges in public policy and possibly act as a recruiting ground for National Treasury and the government, he said.
Discussions about public policy must come to the fore as a matter of urgency, as the International Monetary Fund’s growth forecast for South Africa has come down to 0.1% for 2016 and projections for 2017 declined to 1.1%, said Andile Khumalo, business journalist and master of ceremonies.
Khetha Dlamini, a master’s student from Wits University, said he is looking forward to engaging with other economists and learning more about what they are working on. “I want to find solutions to challenges South Africa is facing in the economic space,” he said. His research is based on development theory, particularly how infrastructure supports inclusive growth.
Matieho Nokhatla, a master’s student at the University of the Free State, said the winter school is not only a learning but also a networking platform. She is keen on learning how policymakers are using industrial policy in rural areas.
Clement Muhamba of Treasury said he is looking forward to what he could learn about dealing with challenges when it comes to policy making.
Tackling inclusiveness of institutions
While delivering the keynote address for the day, Mthuli Ncube, professor of public policy at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, highlighted the challenge of inclusive institutions. “Institutions are important. They impact economic policy design, which impacts economic opportunity, growth and development
“Institutions should remain inclusive and not extractive. Inclusive policy design and inclusive growth is only possible through inclusive institutions,” he added. South Africa is not achieving inclusive growth because it does not have fully inclusive economic institutions, to create a “level playing field” on the economic front, he said.
For example, the cost of doing business in South Africa is too high, he explained. “It is far easier for me to open up a business in Rwanda than in Pretoria.” The inclusiveness of South Africa’s economic institutions needs to be addressed. “There are specific issues in the economic space which are slowing down investment, both domestic and foreign.”
Some of the students shared their expectations for the week on Twitter: