Politicians should not run ahead of themselves and expect the wholesale or partial privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said in parliament on Wednesday.
Responding to oral questions from MPs, Ramaphosa said there are currently around 700 SOEs – some of them key to South Africa’s developmental mandate and others less so.
The inter-ministerial committee tasked with reviewing all the SOEs will come up with a list of which ones are relevant and which not. “As of now we will put the horse before the cart to decide which ones should be retained,” Ramaphosa said. “We’ll be looking at all of them in terms of their performance and profitability and only thereafter we’ll have clearer answers.”
Ramaphosa stressed that the management and governance at SOEs will also receive attention, as well as whether private sector investment and foreign direct investment will be needed as capital injections.
As for a national minimum wage, Ramaphosa said it could go a long way to provide a much-needed injection into South Africa’s economy.
The issue of a minimum wage is currently deliberated in National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and he said South Africa is progressing well with its implementation, compared to other countries.
“It took much longer in Germany and in Brazil it took eleven years. We’re doing it in a period of 18 months and we’re working frantically to reach agreements,” Ramaphosa said.
DA MP Ian Ollis asked the deputy president in a follow-up question if it’s wise to compare South Africa with other countries. “Brazil and Germany implemented a national minimum wage when their economies were thriving. The same can’t be said for our economy. We need to revise it downward; government can simply not implement it in a time where small knocks can have a devastating effect on the economy.”
Ramaphosa disagreed. “Brazil implemented a national minimum wage when their inequality was the worst in the world. A minimum wage helped them to grow their economy.”
He added that the parties who are deliberating at which level a national minimum wage should be set are “acutely aware” of South Africa’s economic circumstances.
“Today our level of inequality is the worst in the world. But this could be turned around and a minimum wage could lead to the injection of growth in our economy. If people have more money in their pockets they become better consumers. This could fuel the manufacturing and demand for goods and services. We should not only look at a minimum wage from negative perspective,” Ramaphosa concluded.