This minister, if reviewed on efficiency and likeability alone, would score top marks. Rob Davies is appreciated by his staff and is seen as hard-working and efficient, immediately replying to questions in Parliament and quickly delivering on legislation.
There have been some disappointments, however, such as the failure of the ministry’s National Credit Regulator to foresee the extent of African Bank’s distress.
This came on the back of the regulator’s decision to remove 1.6-million consumers from its blacklist, which many lenders said would make it difficult to assess applicants as they no longer had access to any credit history.
Then there is the department’s Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, which seeks to cancel investment treaties with other countries. It has caused consternation in the European Union, one of South Africa’s biggest trading partners.
The Bill takes away foreign investors’ right of recourse to litigation in their own countries; instead, they will have to make use of local courts. One of the reasons Davies gives is to encourage including empowerment objectives in deals with EU investors.
Davies has been criticised for his delay in appointing a new lottery operator, which was meant to have been announced in mid-August. A failure to adhere to tender procedures the previous time around saw a court battle being launched by the incumbent, Uthingo. This led to the court overturning the awarding of the licence to Gidani. The selection process had to begin again, leading to the lottery being suspended for six months until Gidani was eventually awarded the licence.
Davies is committed to industrialisation and growth of manufacturing – the only problem is that the country is on its fifth version of the industrial policy action plan.
Foreign investment agencies and analysts have said these constant policy changes are making South Africa less investor-friendly. There is also a perceived lack of stability in policy-making and too much state control.
The plethora of policy being developed by the government, including labour regulations and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act –which secures a 20% stake for the state in all new energy ventures – is bound to make Davies’s ability to attract trade and investment more difficult.