Organised business has called on government to apply stricter, more robust regulatory-impact assessment (RIA) criteria before developing policy, legislation and regulations.
Representatives from the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), the Small Business Project, the Black Business Council and the Tourism Business Council on Tuesday debated the issue in a panel discussion hosted by Sacci.
Tourism Business Council chairperson Mavuso Msimang cautioned that uncertainty surrounding South Africa’s policy direction would continue to negatively impact on the domestic economy and foreign direct investment.
The panel members were in favour of government embedding socioeconomic impact assessments into the lawmaking process but warned that such measures were not enough to alleviate widespread uncertainty among investors and stakeholders.
“Implementing regulatory oversight half-heartedly is not going to be as powerful as ensuring that potentially contentious legislation is scrutinised through the lens of a thorough, rigorous and internationally recognised RIA,” Small Business Project CEO Chris Darroll argued.
She added that, without quality RIAs, ill-informed or inappropriate legislation could be developed.
Darroll stated that because of a lack of transparency in the policymaking process, there was insufficient confirmation that impact assessments were adequately conducted on any of the contentious legislation and regulations currently in the public domain or currently before Parliament.
These included the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, the Expropriation Bill and the Tax Laws Amendment Act, as well as regulations and amendments related to the Road Accident Fund and the liquor, tobacco and fast food sectors.
Msimang asserted that no RIA was conducted on the amended regulations to the Immigration Act and Visa regulations, which had cost the South African economy R2.6-billion last year.
“It was only after extensive engagement with key stakeholders, widespread pressure from a range of stakeholders and much attention from the media that a commission was set up to investigate the impact of the regulations,” he said, adding that the investigation resulted in a decision to rescind the biometric requirements and limit the need for unabridged birth certificates to South African citizens.
He noted that the investigation took time, money and energy which could have been better invested into growing the tourism sector, creating jobs and building South Africa’s reputation abroad.
Sacci president Vusi Khumalo stated that business confidence was at its lowest level since 2010 and that instilling confidence among investors that the country’s policymaking processes were robust would boost the country’s economic growth.
The Black Business Council, meanwhile, added its voice to those expressing concern about the signing into law of the Tax Laws Amendment Act. The organisation believed that, while the amendments were drafted with good intentions, the Act may unintentionally undermine opportunities for small black business start-ups to access funding.
“As a show of commitment to the value of rigorous RIAs, the Black Business Council will look to conduct a comprehensive RIA on the Tax Laws Amendment Act so that we can manage blind spots responsibly,” said CEO Mohale Ralebitso.