In the absence of a “laser-like focus” on growth, merely reducing the size of the “bloated” Government of National Unity (GNU) cabinet will do little to improve South Africa’s economic fortunes, according to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

In a statement, Marius Roodt, IRR analyst and writer, says: “The cabinet could be reduced to ten portfolios but without better policies South Africans will continue to become poorer. The cabinet must have a laser-like focus on one thing: economic growth.”

Acknowledging that the size of the cabinet is “a concern”, the IRR notes that South Africa’s executive team of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President Paul Mashatile and 32 ministers, along with a further 43 deputy ministers who do not form part of cabinet, means that almost one in every five members of Parliament is either a minister or a deputy minister.

Ministerial salaries cost South Africa close to R200 million a year. This is without including the value of other perks which cabinet ministers and their deputies receive.

“Political realities” mean that reducing the size of the cabinet is difficult.

Roodt comments: “The size of the cabinet has been a bone of contention for some time. While Mr Ramaphosa has in the past promised to reduce its size, political realities have made this difficult. The President has had to accommodate a large number of GNU partners as well as manage internal dynamics within the ANC.

“But cutting the size of the cabinet would not make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things in any case. The saving on salaries would be less than a hundredth of one percent of South Africa’s R2.16 trillion budget. Saving a bit of money on ministers would not put South Africa on a path of fiscal sustainability.”

Instead, economic growth must now be the top priority of the cabinet.

Says Roodt: “Getting South Africa on a path where the economy grows at 5% or more a year is vital. While economic growth is not a panacea, it will go a long way to reducing unemployment and poverty. It is one of the tragedies of post-apartheid South Africa that the country has struggled to deal with these issues adequately so as to give all South Africans the prospect of a secure, fulfilling life. In particular, accelerated economic growth is essential to underwrite the creation of employment, which survey after survey has identified as South Africans’ number one priority. Growth is also needed to improve South Africa’s fiscal sustainability, which is currently in a perilous position.”

The IRR has put forward a number of proposals on how to get the economy growing. These proposals are available here, here, and here.

Roodt concludes: “Of course, a smaller cabinet would be ideal, but political realities mean that we have to live with a large cabinet for the time being. The new cabinet must now act with urgency to implement policies which allow South Africa to grow rapidly and to reach its full potential.”

[Image: Tumisu from Pixabay]