To respond to the challenges that have gripped the economy, South Africa needs to improve the interface between research and policy, says Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
The minister made the remarks at the launch of the second phase of the Southern Africa-Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) program on Thursday in Pretoria.
This first phase of the program was deployed between 2017 and March 2022.
Too often, the minister said, research on the South African economy has focused on diagnosing problems, but refrained from giving policymakers practical suggestions.
“This is what SA-TIED is seized of. In its first phase, the program was able to respond to the sudden and critical challenges created by COVID-19, as well as inform thinking about long-standing issues of inequality, poverty, and stagnant growth.
“With regard to COVID-19, research has been rapidly produced to inform government interventions. SA-TIED was also able to provide technical research support for Operation Vulindlela, a key policy initiative implemented jointly by the National Treasury and the Presidency,” he said.
Contextualizing the policy challenges facing South Africa, which SA-TIED Phase 2 sought to address, Godongwana said that although much progress has been made in improving the performance of the economy since 1994, unemployment and inequality remains stubbornly high and poverty is still pervasive. .
“The economic stagnation of the past decade, coupled with the impact of COVID-19, means that much of the progress made during the earlier period of democracy could be derailed.
“This is very concerning, as low economic growth entrenches poverty and inequality, while high income inequality aggravates social divisions and poses a risk to long-term economic growth,” he said. declared.
In addition to domestic issues, the country also faces global challenges, such as climate change.
“As we navigate these internal and external uncertainties, which present both risks and opportunities, evidence-based decision-making will be essential. So when considering the various options available to address these challenges, decision-makers must at all times be informed by high-quality research.
He said the best policy research requires a large and diverse network of researchers. This includes international academics and collaborations with government officials at the forefront of implementation.
“This ensures that the research can inform policy debates. In addition, the program focuses on the inclusion of young scholars and the co-authorship of articles by policy makers. New data and analytical approaches will be further explored in phase 2,” he said.
He said the program would build on past success with innovative approaches and expand administrative data infrastructure and build research capacity around using new data to explore new topics.
SA-TIED Phase 2 would continue to work alongside policy makers to build the evidence base to improve policy making.
Key areas of Phase 2 will include:
Business development for job creation and growth
Public Revenue Mobilization for Inclusive Development
Structural transformation, labor markets and the dynamics of inequalities,
Macro-fiscal analysis and policy modelling,
Food, energy and water in a changing climate, and
Implementation of the reform.
These, he said, “address some of the burning political questions that keep me awake at night.”
He added that quality policy choices are informed by quality research.
In the project, the South African government is supported by the United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).
In the next phase of SA-TIED, UNU-WIDER would provide a set of internationally benchmarked operating procedures and best practices, expose it to relevant international academic forums, ensuring that the research produced is rigorous and highest academic quality.
“We value the collaboration with UNU-WIDER. It has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading development economics research institutes. It has an extensive international network of development economics researchers from world-renowned, with experience in the context of developing countries and emerging economies,” said the Minister.
(With contributions from the South African government press release)