Finance minister Malusi Gigaba once again faced questions around the role of his economic advisor, Prof Chris Malikane, during parliament’s standing committee on finance meeting on Tuesday. The DA shadow minster of finance, David Maynier, wanted to know why Gigaba did not appear to be doing anything to reign in Malikane who has publicly expressed views that do not align with government policy.
Malikane has called for the nationalisation of banks and mines, and the expropriation of land without compensation. He was also quoted as suggesting that people might have to take up arms to achieve economic transformation.
“The message coming from the ministry is a mixed message,” Maynier argued. “It is no longer possible to distinguish between the message from the ministry of finance and its advisor Chris Malikane.”
He asked Gigaba whether Malikane’s statements were not harming the minister’s work.
“Do you think the views expressed by your new economic advisor, views that you’ve distanced yourself from, are causing policy uncertainty and harm to the economy?” Maynier asked. “The economy is not growing because there is insufficient private sector investment. There is insufficient investment because of policy uncertainty. Do you concede the continuous somersaulting between radical economic transformation, inclusive growth, nationalisation, and even taking up arms, is causing uncertainty and causing harm to the economy in South Africa? And if you do, what are you doing about it?”
Gigaba however repeated his contention that he is the minister, not Malikane.
“There is only one finance minister in South Africa,” said Gigaba. “He doesn’t speak in forked tongues. He has been consistent on government policy. The opinions of the advisor are not the opinions of the minster.”
He reiterated that government policy has not changed. However, he argued that there is nothing wrong with hearing a plurality of views.
“We should worry if there is only one view that is being expressed because what it would mean is that not all facts have been considered,” said Gigaba. “Almost everyone in the Treasury is an economist, and they are very very good economists. There is not a single person who can dominate opinions.
“We sit and discuss different opinions and we then take well considered and well canvassed views,” he added. “I am not worried about any single individual who can dominate. My advisors find that the space is open for good discussions, but there are policies that underpin what we have to do, with the National Development Plan (NDP) at heart. Whatever decisions we take are informed by the NDP and seek to advance the economy.”
Gigaba said that Malikane will remain in his position, but he has been taken through an induction programme to explain how government works and what his role is as an advisor.
“It is peculiar to have an advisor being discussed in any government department in this fashion,” Gigaba said. “He comes from an academic background and there are practices we have to understand, but he also has to understand how government works. He will continue his role as advisor to the minster. But the minister is ultimately myself.”
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