Sufficement is the Enemy of Prosperity

Prosperity is understood to mean a state of wealthiness. According to Adam Smith wealth is a product of work. Therefore in order to attain a state of wealthiness, one must work; and in so working thereby attain a state of prosperity.

Prosperity is the opposite of poverty. Poverty is a state of wealthlessness, that is a state that is produced by the absence of work. Therefore in order to attain a state of wealthlessness, one must not work, and in so not working thereby attain a state of poverty.

Sufficement is thought by many to being a strategy that is employed to do the least possible work that is acceptable to just get by without falling foul of the regulations. That is if the expected quota of operations is 60 processes per hour, and the minimum acceptable quota of operations is 30 processes per hour, then sufficement would tend production toward 30 processes per hour and away from 60 processes per hour.

The colonial explorers who turned their hands to colonial development, termed this sufficement as, “the laziness of the native”; which over the years has been taken to be an insult to the industriousness of the South American drug cartels, the West African phishing scammers, the West Asian traffickers and the East Asian counterfeiters. All of whom are rapidly deployed to good effect for their purposes; arcane as their purposes might be.

This sufficement is endemic to the public sector in South Africa. It is the lead characteristic of the rot that has hobbled the South African economy. By public sector I mean, the public good and also the publicly regulated private good. So yes, we are considering the government in all its GEPF splendour, the parastatals in all their bailout largesse and all of the businesses and non-profits that dance to the government’s tune with respect to the government’s self indulgent policies, laws and regulations. Here I am imagining a public company that is listed on the JSE which happens to have the PIC invested in its equity; and a private company that structures itself so as to meet government procurement standards – whatever those standards may be.

So its a case of sufficement. The labour laws assume a 24 hour day, which is constituted of an 8 hour work shift, where 1 hour is for rest and recovery; thus leaving 7 hours for work. So when an employee is employed, they are contracted to provide 7 hours of work in an 8 hour work shift. Let us return to the example of 60 operations per hour as being what is expected of the employee. That’s 60 operations per hour multiplied by 7 hours to yield 420 operations per 8 hour work shift. Sufficement has no intention of achieving this benchmark and certainly no intention of surpassing it with faster and more accurate operational efficiency, indeed no, sufficement is looking fondly at a mere 210 operations per 8 hour work shift.

I must digress at this time to say that there is a parastatal in South Africa which is tasked with inspiring productivity – no, it’s not called the “South African National Productivity Institute for the Furtherance of Economic Prosperity” – it is called “Productivity SA”, and for the life of me I have never come across and example of its work products. So I don’t know what its actually does. Some people in South Africa work slowly and inaccurately because of things like Diabetes, Hypertension, Mental Illness, Liver Diseases, Kidney Diseases and Obesity. So assuming common sense prevailed in parliament, Productivity SA is in the business of paying for medication to combat these medical conditions and disorders so that the workers of South Africa are more amenable to working at expected quota rate of production and not minimum acceptable quota rate of production.

As I write this I know that Productivity SA is not an anchor member of the societal fight against obesity and against the effulgence of added-sugar in the recipes of the foodstuffs that we eat. It is sad that Productivity SA did not think that perhaps the problem with productivity in South Africa is that there is a false belief that “Sugar Gives You Energy” while in fact “Sugar Gives You Obesity, and Obesity Gives You Indolence”. Instead Productivity SA focuses on giving advice to businesses on how to improve their competitive advantages and operational profitability. This is important work that needs to be done, but it is a complete waste of time if the businesses that they help continue to tolerate diabetes, hypertension, mental illness, liver diseases, kidney diseases and obesity on their production floors.

But I digress, for no good reason. Sufficement is a product of a “go slow” attitude that yes, is metabolic in origin; but is entrenched in the personality of the worker as it presents itself. So, because sufficement reduces productivity, sufficement reduces profitability and therefore sufficement reduces wealth. Sufficement is therefore on the side of poverty not prosperity.

What is needed is an approach to employment which manages underperforming workers out of the system completely, and replaces underperforming workers with overachieving workers. Overachieving workers are wealth creators. Underperforming workers are poverty perpetuators. Competition in the labour market, with no minimum wage, no protection for the lack of productivity and no consolation prizes for underperforming workers would create a system that inspires employees to do more work for less money and when you have that situation, you have a competitive advantage within the business and within the industry that allows for globally profitable trade.

So, no, Messieurs Mbeki and Company, the problem is not that the South African economy is setup for the benefit of foreign interests; the problem is that the average South African worker is a practitioner of sufficement and is by nature underproductive. When workers from Southern Africa come to South Africa to work, they work harder and faster and more efficiently than the South Africans, because they have no ensconced job security. You African people from South Africa and South Africa’s neighbouring countries respond to this competitive advantage that the Southern African workers have with outright xenophobia and violence.

And yet, the Sothos are from Lesotho, the Tswanas are from Botswana, the Swazis and Swatis are from Swaziland and Eswatini, the Ndebeles are from Zimbabwe, the Tsongas are from Mozambique, the Pedis are from Lesotho and the Vendans are from Zimbabwe. It is only the Xhosas and the Zulus that are from South Africa. And yet if we trace the heritage of the Niger-Congo people that populate Southern Africa, none of the Africans who call themselves South African are originally from South Africa, as all of the Africans who call themselves South African are originally from the Congo. So in fact South Africa is a nation of settlers, a nation of foreigners and a nation of outsiders.

If Southern Africa as a common market is to prosper there needs to be less of a surfeit of job security and more of a drive for excellence in productivity. By promoting craftsmanship and pride in craftsmanship Southern Africa will be able to trade its competitive advantage earned from overachieving workers into a prosperity for an entire nation that all lives in brick-under-tile houses, that comply with building permits and regulations; and which do not get washed away with every heavy rainfall. But it is not for me to tell you, the African National Congress, to work harder to deliver public services that are actually needed; when your culture of sufficement is so entrenched that you will never escape it.

Unfortunately Messieurs Mbeki and Company, the solution to South Africa’s problems is the complete removal of the African National Congress from South Africa in its entirety.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.