Grappling with poverty and inequality, two of the key challenges facing South Africa, lies at the heart of most of government’s work. The PSPPD’s flagship Understanding Poverty and Inequality in South Africa executive course was developed in collaboration with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice in response to these interrelated and critical challenges. The first of its kind in the county, the course has been delivered annually since 2014.
This five-day course aims to assist senior government officials and policy-makers to better understand how their work fits into a broader context and what levers they are able to use to begin to effectively respond to poverty as well as inequality in South Africa. Inequality is a complex social and economic challenge and there is no silver bullet for addressing it. While labour and financial markets matter alongside provisioning of social services – education, health and social protection – other substantial changes are required to address the structural imbalance in the country. Policies that facilitate inclusion are important for creating opportunities and improving the lives of citizens.
In short, there are no simple solutions and engagement between policy-makers, researchers, and the broader society is imperative to finding answers. Understanding poverty and inequality sufficiently to develop effective policy responses is an ongoing process.
Course participants include chief directors and directors from key line departments whose work is vital for tackling poverty and inequality: the Presidency, National Treasury, the Departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Health and Human Settlements, as well as the economic departments. These public servants are invited to interrogate strategies for addressing poverty, inequality and growth, and to compare trends in poverty and inequality reduction from around the world by examining the data and competing explanations for the observed trends.
Using innovative techniques to ensure optimum participant engagement, the course includes immersion and simulation exercises to support critical analysis of intervention strategies and their implications. Interactive sessions with well-respected international and local guest speakers, including Ravi Kanbur, T. H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, International Professor of Applied Economics and Management, and Professor of Economics at Cornell University; and former Finance minister Trevor Manuel, further provide opportunities for participants to reflect on the relevance of issues discussed and apply some of the analytical tools to their own departmental policies and programmes.