|Dr. Iraj Abedian|
Dr. Iraj Abedian
Born in Iran, Iraj came to South Africa as a student in 1980 - fascinated by the country’s history and eager to be involved in promoting racial harmony across the country. Having first spent some time in Cape Town, he decided to focus on subsistence economy and subsequently spent 15 months travelling through the Transkei from village to village. “For me it was an education both on horseback in the villages but also intellectually” says Iraj, who came into contact with many of today’s ANC freedom fighters and stalwarts at a grassroots level. “I was at the cutting edge of political life [and] it was a very good fast track education for me”.
Iraj has since been involved in all aspects of South African society - from Academia as a lecturer, to working in both the public sector as an advisor and in the private sector as an economist. However, he has a very unique take on economics. “To me, economics is about morality. Traditionally, societies that take their eyes off their moral and ethical conduct degenerate very quickly. Abuse of power cannot be sustainable and that is a recipe for impoverishment”
To this end, he believes that South Africa is a cross roads, and the 2016 budget is the most important in the post-apartheid era. “2015 was a tipping point. If this budget is not credible, if is too grandstanding and full of political nuances it will lead to the downgrade of South Africa to junk status. From a political economy point of view it is also significant because it will show the matter of political leadership from the president all the way down and it will show that the government has internalised the gravity of the situation”.
In terms of what the consumer can expect, it comes as no surprise that Iraj believes this is going to be a year of great belt-tightening. He warns consumers to scale down all expectations - specifically those dependant on the state. “Taxes are likely to go up, while there will probably be no increase in pensions”.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Iraj believes that both the South African society and economy are resourceful and will survive this. “We endured over 50 years of the apartheid government and not only survived but competed”. He believes two key factors will come into play - one is that the private sector now needs to step in and stop spectating, and the other is that active citizenry needs to continue to hold the government to account. “If we learn to play to each other's strengths instead of weaknesses, we can certainly turn the situation around in the next 3 - 5 years”.
Dr Abedian will be a panellist at this year’s SAIT Budget Breakfast which is being held in Cape Town. For more information on this event and to register to attend, click here.