Pension-grab plan ‘unjust and wrong’

Date: 09 September 2019 | Author: Caiphus Kgosana - Business Day Category: News

BLSA slams plan to fill state capture’s fiscal hole with savings

The new head of Business Leadership SA (BLSA) has denounced the prescribed assets plan and backed the sale of Eskom and other failing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Busisiwe Mavuso, who took over as CEO of the association that represents many of SA’s biggest corporations in July, said in an interview this week the state could not use pension savings to fix the fiscal mess caused by state capture and corruption.

“You can’t steal so much money out of the fiscus and think that it’s going to be business as usual,” she said.

“More so, you can’t steal so much money and think you are going to come back and say, ‘To fix the mess that I’ve created over the past 10 years I’m going to take your pension money’.”

In its May election manifesto the ANC committed itself to investigating the “introduction of prescribed assets on financial institutions’ funds to unlock resources for investments in social and economic development”.

South African fund managers are sitting on assets worth R6-trillion.

Mavuso said any moves in that direction would erode the returns on people’s hard-earned pensions and savings.

“These SOEs that they want to pour pension money into, you are not going to get the returns that you ought to be getting. As people who’ve been working our whole lives towards saving for your pension, it’s just not right, neither is it fair.”

She said the banking sector had already lent struggling SOEs about R1-trillion, which she described as “coerced lending” and “prescribed assets by stealth”.

Mavuso, who is also a board member of Eskom, said it did not make sense to hold on to public entities that were draining the fiscus.

“We don’t have to play in the entire global value chain as a country. We don’t have to produce the electricity, transmit and distribute it.

“We actually don’t have to own Eskom, if I dare say it. If someone is going to do a better job of owning Eskom and SAA, then so be it. If it doesn’t make sense for this country to own them, then we have to cut our losses.”

Mavuso said foreign direct investment was being discouraged by the government’s rigid visa regime, its dithering on the allocation of spectrum, its failure to get crime under control and its stance on property rights.

“If you are [asking], ‘Why is business not investing?’, I’m saying that markets are premised on certainty, and the lack thereof is problematic. We don’t have to like the policy, but can we know what it is so that we know how to manoeuvre around it?”

“More so, you can’t steal so much money and think you are going to come back and say, ‘To fix the mess that I’ve created over the past 10 years I’m going to take your pension money’.”

In its May election manifesto the ANC committed itself to investigating the “introduction of prescribed assets on financial institutions’ funds to unlock resources for investments in social and economic development”.

South African fund managers are sitting on assets worth R6-trillion.

Mavuso said any moves in that direction would erode the returns on people’s hard-earned pensions and savings.

“These SOEs that they want to pour pension money into, you are not going to get the returns that you ought to be getting. As people who’ve been working our whole lives towards saving for your pension, it’s just not right, neither is it fair.”

She said the banking sector had already lent struggling SOEs about R1-trillion, which she described as “coerced lending” and “prescribed assets by stealth”.

Mavuso, who is also a board member of Eskom, said it did not make sense to hold on to public entities that were draining the fiscus.

“We don’t have to play in the entire global value chain as a country. We don’t have to produce the electricity, transmit and distribute it.

“We actually don’t have to own Eskom, if I dare say it. If someone is going to do a better job of owning Eskom and SAA, then so be it. If it doesn’t make sense for this country to own them, then we have to cut our losses.”

Mavuso said foreign direct investment was being discouraged by the government’s rigid visa regime, its dithering on the allocation of spectrum, its failure to get crime under control and its stance on property rights.

“If you are [asking], ‘Why is business not investing?’, I’m saying that markets are premised on certainty, and the lack thereof is problematic. We don’t have to like the policy, but can we know what it is so that we know how to manoeuvre around it?”

The debate over the amendment of section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation added to this uncertainty.

“A strong signalling from the government indicating that property rights are going to be respected would help in as far as creating some certainty,” Mavuso said.

Political infighting in the ANC over critical issues such as the ownership and mandate of the Reserve Bank was distracting the government from realising how bad things really were. The government could not always defer to the ruling party or its alliance partners when taking decisions that affected the lives of all South Africans, she said.

For its part, business had to show more commitment to economic transformation. Big business had a responsibility to grow black-owned small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to a level where they could start making a dent in the unemployment crisis.

Through its BLSA Connect initiative launched in March, the association was working to link black-owned SMMEs with the supply chains of big business.

“Big business has reached its plateau in terms of creating jobs. You give big business a R50m contract, they can deliver on that contract with their current resources; but you give an SMME a R10m contract, they have no choice but to go out and get a pair of hands or two to deliver on this contract.”

The article was first published by BusinessLive online.