Standard Bank South Africa chief executive officer, Lungisa Fuzile, says that South Africa already faced a ‘near crisis’ prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen the country buckle, both socially, and economically.
In an interview with 702, Fuzile said that the pandemic has exacerbated the existing problems in the country, adding that it is difficult to tell how well the crisis has been managed while it is still ongoing.
“It is exceedingly important to try and balance a crisis like this one. (This includes) the health issues that pertain to saving lives, as well as making sure that whatever actions you take, drastic as they may necessarily be, you do not cause undue damage to production capacity, jobs and livelihoods.
“I must say that at the beginning there was overwhelming support for how the problem was managed, but the jury is out as to whether we managed it well all throughout.
“Everyone is beginning to grapple with the challenge we now face in the best possible way.”
He said that this includes decisive health steps as well as action taken by the Reserve Bank to try to save the economy, including cutting rates and giving banks liquidity.
“I feel that all those actions put together, driven by decisive and purposeful intent, will help minimise the damage to the economy so that the recovery is not from a very deep hole post-Covid.”
Fuzile said that there have been endless debates about policy in key sectors in the economy, which has led to a pause by both investors and rating agencies.
He said that while these investors would help lift the productive capacity of the economy, they have ‘held back’ because of economic and policy uncertainty.
“My plea would be that those policy debates are concluded. They are very necessary – land reform, restructuring Eskom, spectrum. Yes, they (discussion) have to be had, but you can’t have them endlessly.
“(It must be) so that an investor sitting anywhere on the globe can look at South Africa and an opportunity to put their capital can work, whether they can make their money in South Africa or put it into another country.”
Fuzile said that at every turn, leading is about making hard choices with the hope that ‘on the balance’ the majority benefits.
He noted that while president Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has developed a culture of listening, there are still some questions about its execution, and whether it will act.