Monday, 19 November 2012

Grow Green. Strikes, unemployment. Or electricity?


My letter in the Cape Times today:

There are alternatives to the strikes, unemployment and massive problems afflicting South Africa.

The population of South Africa is being hampered by government legislation that prevents private people and businesses from selling electricity across the national grid. Yet the energy policy white paper of 2003 says that competition should be allowed.

South Africa is at a state of war with itself because of rapidly rising prices and growing unemployment, similar to what is happening in Greece and Italy. The National Planning Commission's report shows exactly how the unemployment figures are massaged and it is not good reading.

However, there is an alternative. Safe, green, sustainable, electricity, with the price coming down every year or at the very least never going up again - ever.

However, the government sees electricity as a cash cow, instead of realising that electricity is there to grow the economy. If the economy grows there will be less unemployment and therefore people who feel better about themselves, who earn rather than receive grants and who therefore strike less and cause fewer problems. People who work and earn a living feel good about themselves. People who receive grants feel terrible, although our government believes this is the only way to get votes, because they see these people as dependent on them for handouts!

If government allows electricity, transport, water, fuel, etc, costs to stop increasing and even start decreasing, by leveling the playing fields, as is envisaged in our policy and strategy, South Africa will grow as fast as the 25 countries in the world which are growing at greater than 5% per annum.

We might even grow like Ghana and other countries and like China has grown, ie at 10%+ per annum. At this rate, unemployment will be gone within 10 years. South Africa will be the richest country in the world. We have resources and we have population growth. With electricity we can turn these resources into finished goods for export to the world and especially Africa which will be the world's biggest market within the next 10 years.

There will be no need to export our raw materials and jobs to countries which are adding Gigawatts to their electricity grids weekly and making the finished goods that South Africa needs, whilst using South African raw materials! Hence making our balance of payments and exchange rate worse at exactly the time these factors should be improving.

Although South Africa'a problems seem complex, they have a simple cause. When will we wake up and realise this?