South Africa: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
The South African economy is now growing faster than at any time since the 1960s. The end of apartheid and international sanctions are to thank for this, as is robust demand for our minerals from China. Average per capita income is rising again after years of decline, and the racial distribution of income is changing. A black middle class is in the making, though its size is disputed. President Thabo Mbeki questions data showing an increase in the incidence of poverty. Some studies show a decrease in poverty, but mainly as a result of the extension of social grants made possible by buoyant tax revenues. Unemployment has doubled over the past decade to reach between 27% and 39%, depending on definition. Some 3.3 million jobless people have given up looking for work, for reasons we do not fully understand. The government plans to halve unemployment by 2014. Inter alia, this necessitates pushing up the rate of investment. Much of this investment will be in the public sector, where there are major shortages of infrastructure. The skills deficit that South Africa faces as a result of its poor education system may retard both investment and growth. Another major problem confronting the country is the ravages of HIV/AIDS, Mr. Mbeki's indifference to which has earned him a place in history. Many people have experienced improvements in the quality of their lives, though the rapid rate of new housing construction has not been enough to keep up with demand. If AIDS is one terrifying scourge, crime is another. Race relations are basically sound. But the government is committed to a comprehensive policy of racial engineering.
KeywordsEconomic growth rising incomes income distribution black middle class poverty unemployment social grants investment infrastructure skill shortages HIV/AIDS Mbeki and AIDS housing quality of life crime race relations racial engineering racial restructuring employment equity black economic empowerment
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