Friday, February 20, 2004

The ANC's promise to create one million jobs through a public works program, that will upgrade South Africa's infrastructure, is at the centre of its election manifesto and will doubtless prove a vote-winner, given the electorate's preoccupation with unemployment. But Tony Leon has a letter in today's Economist saying that the ANC's own documents reveal that most of these "jobs" will be short-term one-off stints lasting four months on average. While investment in infrastructure can't be a bad thing, it goes without saying that these will hardly be real jobs at all, and will do little to alleviate unemployment, poverty, and, for that matter, crime (assuming that Leon is correct).

And therein lies the rub -- sustainable employment, on a large-scale, can only, in today's world, be created through the private sector. Leon's suggestion is to loosen South Africa's restrictive labour laws, a proposal that the Economist itself made in an excellent survey of Sub-Saharan Africa published a few weeks back. But somehow I can't see this happening while the ANC enjoys a close alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

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