The world is tipping over into unknown territory. All the pundits are now starting to agree with US economist, Nouriel Roubini, famous for his prediction of the 2008 financial crash, that a second recession is inevitable. South Africa’s Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus has also added her voice to the chorus warning of another “Lehman type event.”
Since the last recession, the major governments have spent in excess of $24trillion bailing out the banks, dwarfing the money spent on rebuilding Europe under the Marshall Plan. And yet despite all the talk of recovery these measures have only taken us back to where we were in 2008...only with apparently no further options available.
Meanwhile the call from economists is for the politicians in the US and the EU to get their act together, to “act decisively,” to “satisfy the jittery markets.” It’s now all the fault of the politicians.
It has become common knowledge that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Only 41% of people of working age are employed, while half of the people employed earn less than R 2 500 a month. Worse still, inequality is growing with wages as a share of the national income dropping from 50% in 1994 to 45% in 2009; while profit as a share of national income has soared from 40% to 45%. In real terms this means that while a minority live well – and have luxurious houses, swimming pools, businesses, investments, and cushy positions in the state - the majority of people live in shacks or tiny breezeblock dwellings, are surrounded by squalor, and struggle on a daily basis to acquire the basics of life like food and water. Likewise, while bosses, state managers, and politicians – both black and white – get to strut around in fancy suits barking orders; the majority of people are expected to bow down, do as told, and swallow their pride.
The arrest of Dominic Strauss-Kahn (DSK) on allegations of attempted rape certainly has got tongues wagging. In the Guardian newspaper, French journalist Angelique Chrisafis alleged that DSK “always had a problem with women.” Also writing in the Guardian, Dean Baker, co-director of the Washington DC-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research, notes how ironic it is that the immigrant hotel worker who made the allegations may simply have been dismissed under the “flexible labour market policies” so favoured by the IMF, had she not been in a job protected by a trade union.