President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that while government had managed to turn around the troubled economy it inherited at the dawn of democracy, it had failed to ensure everyone benefitted from the wealth.
Ramaphosa opened a two-day debate at the University of Johannesburg as academia, business, and civil society took part in a conference reviewing the past 25 years of democracy.
Ramaphosa questioned whether the country was too modest about its achievements in the past 25 years.
“In the very first years of democracy, we were called upon to address an immediate economic crisis, characterised by a substantial fiscal deficit, a huge apartheid debt bill and stagnant growth. These challenges were underpinned by an economy that was in its design and structure simply unable to satisfy the needs of the South African people,” he said.
“Through sound macroeconomic management and, to some extent, the benefits of a democratic dividend, we succeeded in turning around public finances and setting the country on an improved growth path. Over the course of the last 25 years, however, we have been less successful in addressing the structural faults in our economy.”
But he also acknowledged that the rapid population growth had placed more pressure on government.
“The optimism that characterised the early years of our democracy has been steadily eroded by disaffection and disillusionment. The pressures of urbanisation, uneven development, the contest for resources and widespread joblessness and poverty have contributed to an increase in community protests and has weakened social cohesion,” Ramaphosa said.
“Violence and crime continues to undermine the rights of citizens and their sense of personal security. Corruption has steadily eroded the state’s capacity to meet people’s needs, and is worsening a trust deficit between government and the citizenry.”
As the country reflects on the past few years and the future, Ramaphosa said tough questions needed to be asked about whether government’s policies and programmes were working for the people who needed it the most.
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