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August 2009

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FROM THE PEN

BEE all you can BEE

I’m sure you know at least one person who has held the view that Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) or Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-bBEE) has not worked. Not from a framework perspective mind you, they are quick to add, but rather from an implementation perspective.

A few weeks ago however, Dr Moeletsi Mbeki went somewhat further by saying that our country’s BEE policy entrenches the country’s shocking economic inequalities, by creating a culture of cronyism and entitlement, which discourages black entrepreneurship and education, keeping millions of our people in poverty.

“BEE tells blacks — ‘you don’t have to build your own business, you don’t have to take risk, the whites will give you a job and shares in their company’,” he has been quoted as saying.

Of course, as vehemently as Dr Mbeki and others despise BEE, there are just as many that have supported the ANC-led vision, and will just as easily draw your attention to the many successes the policy has achieved since its inception. Nevertheless, they’ll be quick to add that much work still needs to be done, especially given the fact that black people still only occupy 10% of the directorships in the country and only own 10% of the assets in our economy.
In our profession, the environment is much the same. As at June 2009, SAICA has only 4369 black CAs(SA) registered compared to 24 654 white CAs(SA), despite the progressive transformation projects SAICA has undertaken that have led to the increasing number of black candidates passing both the QE1 (please read pages 38 to 46) and the QE2, and despite the fact that our profession was one of the first to adopt an industry charter to drive transformation in the profession using government’s code B-bBEE of good practice.

At some point in the transformation debate, we must ask the question: “How on earth do we begin to ensure that Dr Mbeki’s shocking statistics continue to change?”
And while Dr Mbeki’s sentiments about scrapping anything to do with BEE because it begs the question ‘what will collapse first, BEE or the economy, or the country’, and adopting a far more concentrated approach to broad based skills’ development so that our country’s ‘underclass’ will begin to really benefit are valid. Skills development does not by itself ensure economic growth, and will not ensure a change in ownership of the assets in the economy. And definitely will not ensure transformation.

We also delve further into the debate this month, as we begin to look at the factors influenced by and influencing our country’s B-bBEE policy. We assisted government to address the somewhat controversial issues attached to the policy, all so that you can make up your own mind and ascertain whether or not BEE is working, and, indeed, for whom it is working.

Raina

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