“So please, Mr Politician, Ms TV Commentator, Dr Economist and Miss Journalist: look around you before you glibly dismiss what is trying to be achieved here.   And when you do, dare to look beyond your familiar to your unfamiliar and find out what is happening on this plural planet of ours, this whole planet and not just that traditional part you know so well, quote so often and admire so much — not least because much of what you know, quote and admire is a busted flush economically and hardly a good role model for a resource-rich, developing country on the other side of the world”.

These are some extracts from the important article by Michael Power, a strategist who served on the advisory board that helped frame the New Growth Path, appearing in today’s issue of Business Day – New Growth Path: The sheet music to make our economic orchestra hum.

Socialism and capitalism

“Socialism in its most extreme form is just as destructive as unfettered free-market capitalism — just ask the North Koreans … or the Irish!”

South Africa’s choice

Which model should SA consider following?  Reading most of the commentaries and critiques on the New Growth Path in the past week, it is hard not to conclude that most think we should be embracing Country A with open arms, while avoiding Country B like the plague, what with its history of suppressing its exchange rate, its state-run mining company, its state-directed pension system, its state-sponsored research council and its eagerness to dance with state banks, publicly owned development banks and even (horror of horrors!) China.   But if we did, we would be embracing an exhausted US and spurning an energetic Chile, not that even Chile is a perfect template for SA.

Broader knowledge base needed

“When will our chattering classes recognise that we are not South Virginia, South Tuscany or South Somerset but South Africa ?   Incidentally, that same Africa is now the world’s third fastest-growing region after China and India, even with us dragging down the continental average.

When will our chattering classes broaden their knowledge base beyond the narrow and economically jaded confines of Western Europe and the US to recognise there are many models of development that might be usefully imitated in SA’s attempts to become a high-growth emerging market?”

The art of violin playing

In São Paulo last year, a businessman explained to me why some Latin American countries were getting it right economically.   ‘Some of our smarter politicians have mastered the art of violin playing.   To make good economic music, you must hold the instrument of state in your left hand, and let it be played by the right.   The trouble with (Hugo) Chavez and (Fidel) Castro is that they grabbed power with the left and tried to play their violins with their left hands too, the result being truly terrible for the people of Venezuela and Cuba’.”

Sheet music needed to conduct orchestra

“SA’s recently released New Growth Path is the sheet music that will hopefully be used to make the people of SA and its economy hum.   It is not yet note-perfect — even Beethoven revised his symphonies.   And there is much work to be done in getting our national economic orchestra to play together — the strings of private capital must work with the brass of labour and the percussion of the government.   And hands — both visible and invisible — will always be needed to conduct this orchestra.

But we will not even have a rehearsal if our chattering classes carp at the composition without having first done their homework”.