Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Trevor Manuel for the IMF!

People are starting to talk about various possible candidates to head up the IMF, including former South African finance minister and current Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, Trevor Manuel. This makes me happy. Trevor Manuel is one of my favourite South Africans. In fact, he's one of my favourite people.

His term as finance minister saw an expansion of the South African economy coupled with social welfare policies that brought about, at least on paper, the realisation of the developmental state model. His greatest frustration - along with many South Africans - was the fact that the money he worked so hard to allocate to pro-poor spending was wasted by so many government departments. Pro-poor budgets did not translate into pro-poor delivery.

When the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, was recalled by the ANC, Manuel graciously stepped down, coincidentally just before he got on a plane to travel oversees. In the time he was on the plane, South African markets and currency took such a tumble that, on getting off the plane, he had to reassure everyone that he'd be happy to remain finance minister under the new president and had only resigned as a matter of protocol - thereby stabilizing the markets and reversing the Rand's losses. Subsequently, he has been one of the only senior government people willing to call out other senior ANC figures in public.

He also played a pivotal role in creating a robust government statistics system, making South Africa one of the few developing nations that is now able (although sadly not always willing) to make evidence-based policy decisions. As finance minister, he set up the 'Tips for Trevor' hotline, where ordinary citizens could phone, text or email him directly with their ideas for the budget, ideas which he discussed in his budget speeches.

He once gave a budget speech woven, elegantly and eloquently, about the theme, "human life has equal worth".

He would be great at the IMF. Let's hope he gets real consideration and is not dismissed, simply because he doesn't happen to be European.

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