Bring more light and dispel the shadows

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By: Adri Senekal de Wet

CAPE TOWN – At a recent Chinese luncheon hosted by Chinese Consul-General Lin Jing (all Cape Town-based Independent Media editors were invited), I was pleasantly surprised to see how many women were around the table.

I followed-up with our human resources department, requesting a break-down on how many women are currently employed in South Africa’s biggest newspaper group.

Independent Media currently employs 14 women editors, and 49 percent of employees are women. Independent Media recently appointed Vasantha Angamuthu as the chief executive of African News Agency (ANA), and Yogas Nair as assistant national editor.

At the Raging Bull Awards event, a prestigious product of Independent Media Business – Business Report (BR) and Personal Finance – last week, I was excited to see how many women attended and received awards.

I invited Dr Leila Fourie, chief executive of the JSE, to deliver the keynote address. For the first time in more than two decades, we had a woman to address our audience.

Fourie is a remarkable woman and an inspirational speaker.

“The JSE will prioritise trust and confidence in our markets,” she said.

“This means making sure our regulation of listed companies and secondary market activity is robust, yet fit for purpose. This includes restoring our reputation as a market that adheres to the highest standards of corporate governance.”

Fourie is passionate about building her team and to ensure that those working with her at the JSE are innovative, responsive, customer-centric and empowered, coming up with solutions. I cannot agree with her more. I share this vision in my capacity as executive editor of BR.

I met amazing women at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in January. Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was appointed in September last year.

“Let me start with the good news… after a synchronised slowdown in 2019, I expect a moderate pick-up in global growth this year and next,” she told me. “We already see tentative signs of stabilisation, with recent data suggesting that trade and industrial output is bottoming out.”

In her address to global leaders, she pointed out: “The reality is that global growth remains sluggish, which makes it harder for countries to boost incomes and living standards. Above all, we are all adjusting to the new normal of high uncertainty… yes, the ‘phase one’ agreement between the US and China is good news, but the underlying causes of trade tensions and the fundamental issues of trade reform are still with us.

“In the first weeks of the new year, we have witnessed increased geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, and we have seen the dramatic impact of climate shocks – in Australia and parts of Africa. So, here is our main message: While in October we were able to sum up our economic forecast in two words, ‘synchronised slowdown’, we now have four words: ‘tentative stabilisation, sluggish recovery’.”

I asked her afterwards to elaborate and to share her thoughts on advice to policymakers. She replied in a session attended by some central bankers by saying: “First: keep doing what works. The fact is that monetary easing added an estimated 0.5 percentage point to global growth last year.

“There were 71 rate cuts by 49 central banks as part of the most synchronised monetary easing since the global financial crisis.”

Just imagine!

“Without this contribution from monetary policy, we would have technically been talking about recession, but we did not. We avoided that. However, we all recognise that monetary policy cannot be the only way for countries to boost growth. And we have already seen some countries using fiscal measures where space is available.

“Second: Focus on boosting resilience and potential growth. For many countries, this means using fiscal tools more systematically and stepping up economic and financial reforms: from lowering barriers to entry in service sectors to balancing the benefits and risks of fintech.

“Enhancing resilience also means using macro-prudential tools where financial vulnerabilities are building up while using financial policies to help reduce economic inequality.

“Most importantly, all countries need to build resilience to climate risks; and they can seize the opportunities that come with the transformation to a low-carbon economy.

“Third, be ready to act if growth slows again. This means keeping well-planned fiscal measures in your back pocket – projects that can quickly get off the ground. And if risks do materialise, countries may need to act together by launching a co-ordinated fiscal response.

“Of course, these resolutions are not only for this year; they will affect our way forward in the new decade.”

The question is, according to Georgieva, “how we can manage rapid change and avoid the mistakes of the past,” she said. In some ways, the beginning of the 2020s is eerily reminiscent of the 1920s. Think of high economic inequality, the rapid spread of new technologies, and the huge risks and rewards of finance. All these issues require stronger co-operation within and across nations.

As Leo Tolstoy once put it: “All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”

By working together now and in the decade ahead, we can bring more light and dispel the shadows. May that be our New Year’s resolution for all of us.

*Adri Senekal de Wet is executive editor of Business Report.

This article first appeared in the Business Report Online