If you listen to the debates that South Africans, across race and class, are preoccupied with at the moment you would think this country is a self-contained island. Yet we are part of a global economy that is characterised by much uncertainty.
"The world is collectively suffering from a crisis of confidence in the face of deteriorating economic outlook," IMF managing director Christine Largarde said. "All this at a time when the scope for policy action is considerably narrower than when the crisis erupted."
South Africa may be better off than most industrialised countries. Our banking system, as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said, has remained "resilient in the face of volatility and turbulence in the global market". Gordhan cautioned that recent developments in Europe and the US had dampened the nascent growth in the global economy and had created "greater uncertainty" about the economic recovery.
Finance ministers must walk a careful path between words of caution about dangers ahead and the need to stoke confidence in the hope of limiting, if not avoiding, the impact of those dangers. So that is as good a word of caution as you will get from the finance minister.
Even before Gordhan's words, South Africans were obsessed with their collective survival and prosperity. Each segment of society is looking after its own narrow interests. Under ordinary circumstances that should be expected. But these are no ordinary times.
On top of the huge social and economic backlogs that relate to our past, which have been compounded by the failure of successive ANC administrations to build an effective state machinery, South Africa, like the rest of the globe, faces the prospect of economic turbulence.
The combination of backlogs and coming turbulence calls for a collective girding of the loins. …