The National Treasury on May 5 launched Phase II of the Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) programme, following what was noted as a successful first phase, with the aim of tackling challenges facing the country’s economy and guiding policy making with quality research.
The SA-TIED programme supports policy-making for inclusive growth and economic transformation in the Southern Africa region.
It is a collaboration between Treasury, the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-Wider), and several other governmental and research organisations in South Africa, implemented with partial funding from the European Union.
In this second phase, SA-TIED announced an additional partner in the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
A key aspect of the programme is to encourage networking and discussion among those involved in policy processes across the participating organisations and civil society to bridge the gap between research and policy-making.
Speaking at the launch, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana lauded the first phase, which was rolled out from 2017 to 2019, as being successful.
He said the programme seeks to improve the interface between research and policy, by fostering partnerships between experienced academic and government policy specialists to respond to policy gaps.
He noted that it was often the case that research on the country’s economy focused on diagnosing the problems, yet stopped short of recommendations for policy-makers. This, he said, is what SA-TIED aimed to address.
In the first phase, he said, the programme was able to respond to the sudden and critical challenges presented by the pandemic, as well as inform thinking on long-standing issues of inequality, poverty and stagnating growth.
Moreover, he said the programme was able to provide technical support to Operation Vulindlela, which was being implemented by the Presidency and Treasury.
During the launch, other speakers also highlighted other successes of Phase 1 as including advances in tax data for the country, as well as policy recommendations on how the country could become a lead player in renewable energy in the region.
Moving into Phase 2, Godongwana said there were several challenges facing the country’s economy, which the programme would seek to address.
He said the challenges facing the country’s economy were well documented.
Godongwana pointed out that while progress had been made post-democracy in the early period, the country was now at risk of derailing this, owing to the economic stagnation of the past decade, coupled with the impact of the pandemic.
This was of concern, he said, as low economic growth entrenched poverty and inequality.
The country also has to contend with international challenges, such as climate change.
In considering the various options available to tackle these challenges, Godongwana said policy-makers must be informed by high-quality research, with the best version of this gleaned from a wide and diverse network of researchers, including international scholars and collaboration with public servants at the face of implementation.
“This ensures that research can inform policy debates. In addition, the programme focuses on including young scholars and co-authoring of papers by policy makers,” Godongwana acclaimed.
He informed that novel data and analytical approaches would be further explored in Phase 2.
Also, the programme would build on the past success of innovative approaches. It would expand the infrastructure for administrative data and build research capabilities around the use of data to explore topics, Godongwana pointed out.
He added that Phase 2 would continue to work alongside decision-makers to build the evidence base for improved policy making.
Key areas of Phase 2 would include, besides others, enterprise development for job creation and growth; public revenue mobilisation for inclusive development; structural transformation, the labour markets and inequality dynamic; food, energy and water in a context of climate change; and reform implementation.
In terms of economic development reforms, it was indicated that sequencing would be key, that is, knowing which reforms would be the most catalytic, which would be the most effective, and therefore, where the programme must start to gain momentum.
Godongwana emphasised climate change as a key area as well, noting that this must not only be looked at as an environmental issue, but also as the fulcrum of an alternative economic development path.