Building Back Fairer from the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Africa: Some First Step Reforms in An Era of Fiscal Constraints

IFPRI Discussion Paper 2043 (2021)

34 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2021

See all articles by Channing Arndt

Channing Arndt

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Rob Davies

United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER)

Sherwin Gabriel

CGIAR - Environment and Production Technology Division

Laurence Harris

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Dirk Ernst van Seventer

United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER)

Michael Sachs

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 24, 2021

Abstract

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa confronted an unfolding economic crisis. Today, the economic situation has worsened in essentially every dimension. If there is a silver lining to this terrible pandemic from the perspective of the South African economy, it could be found in an enhanced willingness to implement reform measures designed to rekindle growth, improve equity, and drive sustainable development whilst recognizing significant fiscal constraints. To this end, this paper focuses on three areas: skills; food systems, nutrition, and health; and urban structure. In each area, we first briefly consider long run perspectives and then turn attention to high return positive steps that can be implemented in the very near term and are consistent with the realization of a positive long run vision. We find that much greater openness to immigration of highly skilled and experienced workers (and their families) stands out as a rapidly implementable policy that offers strong potential to stimulate growth, create jobs, and reduce inequality at low costs to government and with low risk. With respect to food systems, nutrition, and health, we point to a solid basis for optimism about growth and employment prospects in the long term. We also highlight the potential benefits of holistic perspectives that include implications for nutrition and health. Turning to the very near term, we underline the need to reduce the policy uncertainty associated with land reform. In this optic, we recommend consideration of a focus of reform in the near term on favorable dryland areas that can be equipped with supplemental irrigation, with the goal of permitting these areas to specialize in higher value products. Judicious water resource use planning must accompany this policy. Turning to urban structure, we note the persistence of the spatial inequities entrenched by the apartheid era. With tight fiscal constraints on government investment that are likely to extend to the medium term, we seek to refocus policy on measures designed to increase efficiency and equity outcomes derived from existing infrastructure. The analyses of these three areas complement the growth agenda released by the National Treasury in August 2019 and the policy discussions contained in a series of policy papers published by Economic Research South Africa (ERSA) over 2021.

Keywords: South Africa, Southern Africa, Africa South of Sahara, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Disease, Coronavirinae, COVID-19, Recovery, Growth, Economic Growth, Economic Recovery, Nutrition, Health, Food Systems, Skills, Urban Structure, Macroeconomic Position

Suggested Citation

Arndt, Channing and Davies, Rob and Gabriel, Sherwin and Harris, Laurence and van Seventer, Dirk Ernst and Sachs, Michael, Building Back Fairer from the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Africa: Some First Step Reforms in An Era of Fiscal Constraints (September 24, 2021). IFPRI Discussion Paper 2043 (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3930202

Channing Arndt (Contact Author)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Rob Davies

United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

Sherwin Gabriel

CGIAR - Environment and Production Technology Division ( email )

2033 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
United States

Laurence Harris

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States
2028625600 (Phone)
20005 (Fax)

Dirk Ernst Van Seventer

United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER) ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

Michael Sachs

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
12
Abstract Views
72
PlumX Metrics