Covid-19 crisis gives SA a chance to build a fairer society

Moody's decision to downgrade South Africa’s investment ratings status to junk status has come at possibly the worst time as the country battles the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Moody's decision to downgrade South Africa’s investment ratings status to junk status has come at possibly the worst time as the country battles the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Image: REUTERS

SA cannot implement any policy without regard to the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in respect of the economy. Our fortunes, for better or for worse, are intertwined with those of other countries.

We may rail against Moody’s decision to downgrade SA’s investment ratings status to junk, but international investors regard the assessments of all the ratings agencies as critical indicators of our ability to protect any investment they make, or loan they advance.

It may be no more than a coincidence that Moody’s decision has come at a time the country gears up for a fight against Covid-19.

The current global pandemic exposes more cruelly than we could have imagined how badly we have squandered the democracy dividend bequeathed to us in 1994.

Poor medical and social services, alongside deepening inequality between rich and poor, mean that we are wholly unprepared to manage this pandemic.

The majority of South Africans – unemployed or poorly paid when they do work – experience inhumane living conditions in rudimentary shacks with few of the basic amenities required for survival.

Across six terms of office the government has mismanaged, corrupted and wasted the available resources to provide services to its people. Politicians and high-ranking state employees earn exorbitant salaries which contribute to a growing divide between the haves and have-nots, without any measure of job accountability being applied.

The private sector maintains that its only obligation is to make profits for its shareholders, perpetuating the development of an underclass of poor working people, whose ranks are decimated whenever a firm runs into financial trouble for whatever reason.

Organised labour, especially public sector trade unions, deny their complicity in failing to grow our country over the past 26 years.

But Covid-19 has not arrived on our shores only to threaten and decimate. It provides an opportunity for government, business and civil society to plot a path towards rebuilding our country’s economic and social structure to benefit all people.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has shown leadership in fighting the virus. We need the same commitment to charting a new path out of the difficulties we have always faced in SA.

 

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