Economics and Transformation: Measurements, Models, Maths and Myths
Martin Wittenberg ()
No 211, SALDRU Working Papers from Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town
SALDRU and DataFirst have been at the forefront of measuring poverty and inequality in South Africa. We don't however often enough try to sketch out the "big picture" as to why we do this and what we may have learned. Five years ago I tried to do this in my inaugural lecture. It turns out that everything said in that lecture is still relevant, if not more so. At the time of the lecture there were still some people who were under the impression that the warnings about the problems of unemployment and inequality were overblown. Eight days later the massacre at Marikana happened. I can't claim to have foreseen it; nor did I have an inkling that my warning that we were sitting on a powder keg would be confirmed so rapidly. Although the material is still relevant, the text was designed for a public performance, one which connects to the old rituals and traditions of Universities. One way of reflecting on that was to structure the text like a classical symphony: after the tune-up (in the preamble), a fast movement, followed by a slow one, then a dance and a finale that goes back to themes raised in the intro. While traditions may shape what we do, I was trying to show that one can also innovate on them and given them new content. Furthermore drawing on the strengths in some of these traditions, in my case the memory of my father, is important in moving forward. At the time none of us knew that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and that my inaugural would be his last major public engagement. While a record of the "performance" has been available for some time (it can be viewed on YouTube ) the text was never released, partially because I had intended to polish and expand on it.
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