Opinion 

Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award winning financial journalist and broadcaster. He is a sought after public speaker on the political economy.
  • Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has been taking a break from sharing his culinary achievements on Twitter to dish up a new recipe for an SA turnaround. 
  • Mboweni went direct to public comment, upping pressure on government departments.
  • Things are about to get noisy (again).
  • For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

It became clear late on Tuesday afternoon why the Finance Minister has been taking a break from his Twitter feed and why he suspended sharing his culinary achievements there.

Instead Tito Mboweni has been developing a growth recipe for South Africa, which he released directly for public comment on the National Treasury website, and in so doing, may have breached political protocols.

Cabinet members have received the document, which was expected to be circulated at a meeting next week, but now the whole country is taking about it before they have time to mull it over more privately. And that’s a good thing.

Read: Government just released a plan to create 1 million jobs and save the economy – here’s what you need to know

By putting the document, which has been worked on since November last year, immediately into the public domain, the minister is seriously upping pressure on government departments, which have already been warned to expect cuts in budget allocations and told they must face up to the dire state of the economy and understand its considerable fragility.

Reform is going to be forced on government through economic circumstance, whether it likes it or not. It’s better that it choose its own “least-worst” option or have that privilege removed when global funders of last resort take charge.

The document begins with the clearest statement yet by government on the state of the economy it inherited from the previous administration: "South Africa’s current economic trajectory is unsustainable; economic growth has stagnated, unemployment is rising and inequality remains high."

No sh*t Sherlock.

But at least it’s there, in black and white for all to see, and once you read that, you cannot unsee the brutal reality of an economy that requires serious surgery.

The document is broad, bold and evidence-based. Of its 77 pages, 11 are references from serious sources which give guidance and insights on the measures required to get to 4% growth and create a million jobs.

The country needs more, but it’s a start. It’s likely to anger some in the governing party, but then that might be precisely what Mboweni wants to do. South Africa is stuck in a cul-de-sac of economic despair and requires emergency rescue.

The country doesn’t have the time nor the appetite to observe niceties and protocols.

The wide-ranging document contains proposals on everything from reigniting tourism using sensible visa regulations to boosting small business and critically “prioritising labour intensive growth,” and even selling some Eskom power stations.

It’s not perfect, but designed to encourage public comment. The time for sitting on the sideline and whingeing about state inaction and policy failures is over. This is a serious document, with a serious purpose. Sit on the sideline of this debate at your peril.

Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award-winning financial journalist and broadcaster.

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