The second item on my wish list is in the field of property rights. It is time that we recognised, as a nation, not just in Government, that property rights are sacrosanct. If we do not have a legal system and a Government or even a national perspective on this issue, we are going nowhere. Private ownership of property – intellectual or other, is fundamental to the process of accumulation and value addition as well as a functioning banking system. People only look after what they own, nothing else.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we as a country, are now faced with the harsh reality that our climate is changing. The ONLY way we can manage that process on the ground is to have a million farmers who own and control the land they make a living from. State ownership and communal ownership simply will not be able to handle the magnitude of the climate induced problems that are coming. Israel turns desert into flourishing farms – but always on the fundamental premise that the land that is being cultivated is owned by the Kibbutz or the Commune or the Company or individual.
We need, at the very least, a long term bankable lease for land that is protected by law and law enforcement against violation and abuse. The days of a connected individual targeting a prime property and then forcing the owners to flee with their clothes in bags, must be a thing of the past. We have started on this process in 2019, but we need now to make it automatic and visible. Without tenure, our farmers will not put in contours, irrigation or plant trees. They will simply rape the land for profit and abandon it when it can no longer yield a return more than the cost of getting there. What we are doing now is simply not working – for anyone.
My third wish on the list is to adopt policies that recognise the value of foreign exchange and the need to use it responsibly and on a market driven allocation basis. Right now we have a system that transfers control over foreign exchange from those who have earned it to people who control its allocation as a source of power, influence and privilege. We may now be paying the earners a real market price but this is only in a local currency that is not convertible outside the country and is unstable. The temptation to take this scarce resource and allocate it at a subsidy or to simply make it available because you can, is just too much of a temptation. Just look at the lifestyles of those who control these artificial levers of power – they are all living way beyond their personal means.
We need to do what all successful States are doing – create a market for foreign exchange that is open, transparent and accessible to all. Then we need to direct all foreign earnings onto that market and allow anyone who wants foreign exchange for any legitimate purpose, access to the market at a market price. That is what happens in Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. Why not here? The good thing here is that we are on our way to doing just this, but there are many who will fight the changes to protect their privileges and power.
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