The key to double digit economic growth for South Africa

[notice] A fortnightly column by Johannesburg Business Editor, Patrick Kuwana. [/notice]

Last week the World Bank issued a report saying that South Africa’s economic growth rate will slow down to 2.5% (from an expected 3.1%) and that the country must tackle economic inequality in order to create jobs and bring down unemployment statistics.

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The report went on to list a few interesting facts and figures:

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with a Gini coefficient of 0.7 in 2008, the bank noted in its South Africa Economic Update: Focus on inequality of opportunity. The Gini coefficient is an internationally used measure of income inequality.

The top 10% of the population accounts for 58 per cent of South Africa’s income.

The bottom 10% account for just 0.5 per cent of income, and the bottom 5 per cent less than 8 per cent, said the bank.

“At the heart of high inequality lies the inability to create employment opportunities on a large enough scale,” said the report.

Unemployment of 25.2% (or 33% if discouraged workers were included) was among the world’s highest.

Social grants made up 70% of the income of the poorest 20% of South Africans.

If these grants were excluded, 40% of South Africans would have seen their income decline in the first decade after apartheid.

The bank went on the say that “even after accounting for the equalising role of social assistance, income inequality remains extraordinarily high, and to reduce it to more reasonable levels over the long run, social assistance is clearly not enough and needs to be complemented by other initiatives.”

Lack of knowledge
As I read this it made me think of the fact that we are a majority Christian nation and yet so broken and dysfunctional, but then I also remembered the Lord’s words when He says in Hosea 4:6 — “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you my priests have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children”.

Is what we are seeing in our country evidence of our rejection of true knowledge? It’s a real pity because even we as the body of Christ have valued worldly wisdom and knowledge (Harvard MBAs, the latest business/management fads, new age motivational speakers and performers) more than the word of God which is the true source of wisdom and knowledge. Could the painful truth actually lie in the fact that we don’t fear the Lord? (Proverbs 1:7 – Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.)

The issues that the World Bank report talks about are not issues that the Government will be able to address with permanent solutions;  these are issues that the people of God (the church) are responsible for because we have access to the ‘Owner’s’ manual (the Bible) and the ‘Owner’s’ power (the Holy Spirit) to restore the economy to the position the ‘Owner’ wants it to be. It’s time we stop using the Gvernment as a scapegoat for failing in the task that God clearly gives His people to fulfil in order to bring about His restoration.

Love, not legislation
The greatest economics and business book ever written (the Bible) gives us God’s blueprint of how to handle the issue of inequality. It addresses what we should do to those less fortunate — widows and orphans. The Bible deals with these issues from a position of love and not by legislation.

Could the reason why the Government is finding it necessary to legislate things like Black Economic Empowerment, skills development, corporate social investment, etc, be that we as a Christian nation have failed to do what God has asked us to do in love?

Mandatory BEE, skills development and corporate social investment won’t work in the long term (in fact we are already seeing major breakdowns) because permanent equalisation can only succeed when it comes from the foundation of true wisdom (in other words love). Equalisation based on legislation will always backfire.

What would happen if the body of Christ indeed followed the greatest commandment that Jesus gives in Mark 12:29-31 — Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love you neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.’

Could this statement by Jesus hold the key to seeing double digit economic growth for our beloved country? Seems too simple.

I finish off with one of my favourite verses – 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 – ‘Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose the things despised by the world; things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important’.