Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Keepers of the Light - new book and film on Portland Bill lighthouse, Dorset

Two artists from the West Midlands, Brendan Jackson and Geoff Broadway, recently launched their book and film about the construction of the Portland Bill lighthouse on the Dorset coast in England.

They are magnificent works of art in themselves, portraying how the firm of Chance Brothers built a global business on lighthouse design, construction, installation, commissioning and maintenance which lasted for over 100 years.

Monday, 11 November 2019

My article in Business Day on why the DA must embrace the entrepreneurial class and exports

Today's Business Day carries my article on two "killer app" economic policies for the DA - please enjoy!

Hundreds of people turned up at Hyde Park Corner mall to hear Mcebisi Jonas launch his book After Dawn in August. The allusion to dawn was not missed, coming eighteen months after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘New Dawn’ state of the nation speech which did so much to raise the hopes of our nation.

Things are a lot darker now, and not just because the ratings agencies are scouring the horizon for signs of an economic upturn, finding little but thunder clouds. Their assessments are met with determined statements of intent that we must “do better” but with little of the political will required to underpin hopes with a realistic plan.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Why has getting Brexit done been so difficult? - Lord Hill in conversation with Toby Chance

Last week I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Jonathan Hill, who I've known since our student days at Cambridge University. The last time we were together in SA was in 1989, when he and his new wife Alex came for a three week holiday. We recalled how we spent Christmas Eve in Durban watching the toppling of Nicolae Ceaușescu, president of Romania, and his execution, along with his wife, the following day. It was a symbolic moment in the collapse of communism in the USSR and eastern Europe.

South Africa was about to experience its own brand of freedom, with President de Klerk announcing the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela a few weeks later.

Now Britain, of all the least expected countries, is undergoing a political crisis, with the traumatic process of withdrawing from the EU inflaming tensions across the country. In trying to make sense of it all, I was keen to hear Jonathan's views, which are published in today's Daily Maverick - you can read the interview here or in full below.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Measuring the informal economy - stats and impact: the debate continues

GG Alcock's article in BizNews, his interview with Alec Hogg, my response and his riposte, and the Editor's Desk discussion between Alec and Felicity Duncan, have stimulated a lively discussion on how we measure the informal economy and what its impact is on SA's GDP, unemployment and growth.

BizNews has followed this up with a summary of the comments and points made by readers.

Long may this discussion continue, and hopefully it will filter through to the Treasury and Stats SA where the capacity and expertise lies to do the heavy lifting.

It is interesting that the Treasury's economic growth strategy document released yesterday with an accompanying press statement places great emphasis on the role SMEs will and must play in our growth. Many of its recommendations come straight out of work I did with my colleague Henro Kruger in the 5th term of Parliament between 2014 and 2019 - including his Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill, my Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill, our focus on late payments and early-stage funding for SMEs, the need to exempt SMEs from regulations and bargaining council extensions and focus on exports, amongst others.

One topic it does not dwell on is the role of the informal economy in the broader economy. I will be sending my comments to the Treasury on this and other matters. Send comments to Rita.Coetzee@treasury.gov.za

Friday, 23 August 2019

Response to GG Alcock - shattering the myth of high unemployment rate, BizNews

Today, BizNews published my response to an article by GG Alcock which got a lot of reader comments (both positive and negative), due to its contrarian views on the state of the informal economy in SA. I have read both GG's books (Kasinomics and Kasinomic Revolution) and loved them both, and have met with him several times over a coffee to discuss various aspects of the entrepreneurial space. I have no gripes on his point that the informal economy is more alive than most people give it credit for, but was moved to respond in the context of SA's broader development and growth agenda, which his argument fails to address, in my view.

I will read the readers' comments with interest, this discussion has a long way to go.

You can read it on BizNews here or read it in full below.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Reflections on the election and my legacy of five years as Shadow Minister of Small Business Development

Over three months have passed since the election and the end of my five year term in Parliament. I had hoped to return for another five year term but the party had other ideas.

After the DA's poor electoral performance, in which its share of the vote dropped and the Parliamentary caucus went from 89 to 84, a three-man review panel was set up to look into the reasons why and what reforms the party should consider to bring it back to a growth path. So far, there has been zero accountability in the senior echelons of the party, with the exception of the resignation of Jonathan Moakes, the campaign director and former CEO. Instead, the leadership have taken "collective responsibility" for the first drop in the DA's national vote since 1994 - language which we associated with the ANC, not the DA, where personal accountability has always trumped the collective. Not any more, it seems.

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Financial Mail endorses the DA's economic policy, positive comments about approach to small business

This week's Financial Mail gives a strong thumbs up to the DA's economic policy, in its lengthy cover story by economics writer Claire Bisseker.

In her article she quotes Lumkile Mondi, who chaired the panel discussion I sat on at the SBI Indaba two weeks ago.

"Wits economics lecturer Lumkile Mondi chaired a recent panel discussion organised by the Small Business Institute in which the main parties were invited to present their policies for supporting the SME sector.

In Mondi’s view, the ANC "disadvantaged itself" by being unable to say what it would do differently, while the EFF offered no policies of its own and simply claimed it would do a better job of implementing the ANC’s if it were in power.

The DA had "a very good story to tell", however, based on its approach of boosting SMEs through deregulation."

I must say I am chuffed to have got his approval for my comments.

Bisseker also quotes my colleague and DA spokesman on jobs, Geordin Hill-Lewis as follows:

"...the DA would improve the operating environment for small firms by ensuring government departments pay them in 21 days, not the current 30. It would also exempt SMEs from most labour and employment equity legislation, reduce red tape and return to sector-specific minimum wages with a new minimum floor of R1,780 a month. "We need a recalibration of the power relationship between big unions and small businesses," says Hill-Lewis. "Shop-floor strike ballots should be mandatory and bargaining council agreements should not be imposed on small businesses which are not represented. These two reforms alone would go a long way in forcing the two towards a better working relationship."

The DA's policy on small business outlined in our manifesto has won the approval of most commentators. I am proud to have played a significant hand in writing it. 

Letter in Business Day about corruption in the Dept Small Business Development

Yesterday's online version of Business Day publishes my letter about rampant corruption in the Department of Small Business Development. It seems corruption is now everywhere. People laud Minister Rob Davies for his sound management of the Department of Trade and Industry which he has run since 2009 but under his watch corruption has spread like a cancer and Minister Zulu has done nothing to stop it after inheriting the "small bits" of the DTI when her department was set up in 2014.

Until now. Last month she suspended nine officials on the strength of an Auditor General's report, and I hope this will be just the start of a cleanup process to root out corruption entirely.

You can read the letter here or below for non-subscribers to BusinessLive.

Minister Zulu must release the Auditor General’s report on corruption in her department and initiate lifestyle audits on all her officials
25th April 2019
Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, must release the Auditor General’s report on its investigation into corruption by officials in her department which was finalised in March. She must also initiate lifestyle audits on all department staff, many of whom are living lifestyles way beyond what their salaries would afford.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Minister Zulu's international trips revealed

Questions to Ministers, both written and oral, are an excellent way to extract information from the executive they are reluctant to reveal through other means. 

See how taxpayers' money is spent by one such minister, Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development. The air travel costs alone amounted to R1,3 million for 12 trips, some of which were paid for by the host country/organisation. That's over R100 000 per trip. 

The DA has been pressing for the Ministerial Handbook to be amended to minimise expenditure by the executive. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni might be forced to listen as a cost-cutting exercise will soon become mandatory, due to the government's coffers running dry.

Manifesto debate at the SBI SME Indaba

On Thursday 11th April I participated in a debate with the ANC and EFF on our election manifestos. It was part of the Small Business Institute SME Indaba held at the Bryanston Country Club.

My counterparts were ANC MP Ruth Bhengu, Chair of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development and a colleague of mine for the past 5 years on this committee; and Mandisa Mashego, Chair of the EFF in Gauteng. It was moderated by economist, commentator and SBI director, Lumkile Mondi.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

My final speech in Parliament

On Thursday I delivered my final speech in the 5th Parliament, a declaration on the Small Business Committee's report on our trip to Spain last September.

I will be writing a valedictory piece closer to the time (or maybe once the elections results have been announced) to share my thoughts on my time as an MP since May 2014.

"The purpose of this study tour was to visit the Mondragon Corporation, Spain’s leading exponent of cooperatives as an organising principle of business, learn from its successes and failures and understand the role government plays in the cooperatives sector and social economy.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Small Business Institute Indaba 11th April - programme notice, I'm on the morning panel

I have received notice of the SBI's first Small Business Indaba of 2019 in which I
will be appearing alongside representatives from the ANC and EFF in a panel
to discuss our manifestos as they pertain to SMEs.

See details below and the link to the provisional programme here.

SBI  #SMEIndaba 11 April - Bryanston

Dear SBI Members, business colleagues, and partners,

The first SBI #SMEIndaba of the year will be on Thursday, 11 April, at the Bryanston Country Club in Johannesburg.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be another memorable morning of speeches, debates and inspiration. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Our economy is in trouble

Just a week after  we debated the DA motion on the jobs crisis I saw a Facebook post by economist Mike Schussler which really scared me.

I shared a platform with Mike a few weeks back at The Wanderers in Joburg where we aired our thoughts on the same theme - the tanking economy and what we must do to turn the ship around.

But it was the comments on Mike's post that I found most troubling, coming from business owners at the coal face of our economy. You can read them below.

Ramaphoria is a chimera which has long disappeared and people must get used to the fact that we are in for a few rocky years until our political leaders realise we can no longer run a modern economy that is captured by socialist, racial nationalist and statist thinking.

Segments of the DA must also wake up and see that any form of BEE is taking this country in the wrong direction. Policy must be de-racialised and focus on ameliorating disadvantage by a laser-like obsession with investment and growth. Why use race as a proxy for disadvantage when you can measure the real thing?

We must reduce the cost of doing business wherever possible to make it easier for small companies to survive and grow. Current DA policy would exempt businesses turning over less than R30 million from BEE and certain labour regulations. This is a good start but we should go further and replace BEE with EED - Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged, conceived by the Institute of Race Relations. You can read about it here.



Tuesday, 26 February 2019

DA motion on the economy - text of my speech and YouTube video

Yesterday evening I took part in the DA motion on the economy with my colleagues Geordin Hill-Lewis, Angle Khanyile and Mbulelo Bara. My focus was on small business and the experience of the Western Cape in reducing red tape.

You can read my speech below or watch it on YouTube.

House Chairperson

The quickest way to uncover a political party’s attitude to the role of small business in the economy and solving the jobs crisis is to do a word search of their manifesto.

In the DA’s manifesto, launched on Saturday, you will find 39 references to small business, not just in the section on small business but throughout the document. In the ANC’s manifesto, small business gets 13 mentions and in the EFF’s, only 3.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Committee report on my Ombud Service Bill includes the DA's minority report

Yesterday our portfolio committee met to consider the report on the motion of undesirability of my Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill. 

At our last meeting of 2018, we had a long discussion about whether the DA, in my name, could submit a separate minority report and we eventually agreed that it would, instead, be included in the main report.

The committee therefore adopted the report unanimously and it was announced in today's ATC - see pics. We should have an opportunity to present it to the National Assembly before the Fifth Parliament rises on 20th March.

You can read my minority report after the main report below. This is one of the first times the DA has succeeded in getting a minority report incorporated into a committee report. My colleagues Manny de Freitas and Chris Hunsinger are taking the Transport Committee to court to force it to include their minority report on the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill into its main report. It is an excellent piece of work and congratulations go particularly to Chris for this.


1.         Introduction and referral of the Bill
The Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development (“the Committee”) received referral papers from Announcements, Tabling and Committee Report (ATC) of Friday, 25 May 2018 which was the Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill [B14 – 2018]. The Bill had been introduced in the National Assembly, proposed as a section 75 and was published in the Government Gazette Number 41623 of 10 May 2018.  

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Inside Out Perspective: talk on SA's economy and job creation

Last Thursday evening I shared a platform at the Wanderers golf club with economist Mike Schussler and DA colleague Khume Ramulifho on the topic of jobs. The event was the second in a series organised by Dalu Cele, a councillor in the City of Joburg, aimed at giving the public perspectives on current issues from the outside (a guest speaker) and inside (two DA public representatives).

You can read my speech below.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to see you all here at the second Inside Out event organised by my colleagues Dalu Cele and Nicci Rahn.

I want to begin by offering a few thoughts on where political philosophy and ideology fit into our discourse on the economy and job creation.

Political philosophy and ideology have become very unfashionable words in South Africa. They have been supplanted by words such as vision, mission and brand identity, in a world where spin doctors like Lynton Crosby and faceless officials have come to dominate our language.

But we need to understand the political philosophies that underlie the main actors in South Africa’s polity to understand how economic policies flowing from them impact our daily lives.

The ANC, in government for close on 25 years, is fundamentally a socialist party with leanings towards Marxist Leninism.

This dates to the Freedom Charter but has greater expression in the National Democratic Revolution which is the driving force of ANC ideology. In the NDR, the state is the main actor in society and the economy.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Opinion piece in Business Live - why the Department of Small Business Development is still floundering

Today's edition of Business Live published my opinion piece which sums up why the Department of Small Business Development has failed SA.

You can read it here or the text version below.

These pages have carried a running commentary on the performance of the Department of Small Business Development since its proclamation in July 2014. Heralded by special interest groups as an overdue and bold move to boost government procurement from black-owned SMEs, derided by anti-interventionist types as evidence of more government bloat, it has been a punching bag in our politico-economic dialogue ever since.

Most recently, special advisor to Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Thami Mazwai, (“A mischievous attack”, 31st January) rebutted a call by the Small Business’s Initiative’s Bernard Swanepoel to do away with the department and said Parliament’s portfolio committee “have not questioned the need for the department”. Only the ANC members support its continued existence, with most opposition MPs including the DA calling for its closure.