This column was first published in Business Day.
The launch of THE recovery plan on Thursday by the president is a seminal moment which will define the path to economic doom or recovery.
The bar should be set high — there are no free lunches and spin won’t cut it — so that all the correct ideas are on the table just for the picking. Equally compacting counts for nothing for a recovery itself, only the quality of implementation.
Much of this will rotate on credibility as much as specifics — how implementable any such plan is from the president in parliament into action. The plan is meant to give the medium-term budget policy statement some clothes after a “naked” emergency budget in June that lacked the credibility of a whole-of-government recovery plan.
Hearing more about “boring” implementation logistics of existing policy would be more exciting — how the president’s political capital can be deployed through Operation Vulindlela to turbocharge the initiative.
The cabinet lekgotla last week was told in stark terms how important getting it right was. In the back of a slide deck it was presented from the economic cluster it said bluntly that “non-implementation of the economic reconstruction and recovery plan could lead to … collapse of the supply capacity, consumer and business confidence, the labour market and increased vulnerability of the poor.” Quite. (I would add a fiscal crisis to that too as the hippo gets jaw lock).
Yet if the plan is meant to mitigate against that risk, the plan the lekgotla was presented misses the point.
There is a core of illogicality here. The president decries state capacity; yet at the same time the government looks to a plan that is a hodgepodge of 1,000 different ideas that even a government with capacity would struggle to understand and implement. If you don’t have the capacity, then logically you can’t do a plan like this and someone else must run with driving growth (that is business).
There are simpler issues to consider on Thursday. The lekgotla plan mentions nuclear. Will that still be there on Thursday? It might not be fair but this is a fact of life. Any recovery plan that has “nuclear” in it anywhere will have zero credibility and will be a laughing stock. Similarly, a plan that stuffs renewables and a just energy transition in the back will lack credibility, given this will be a central and defining issue for social as much as energy security reasons in the coming decade.