Santosh Kumar & Ishaan Saxena: Key take-aways from Fifa World Cup 2010

Diplomats at UN Geneva Celebrate World Cup KickoffImage by US Mission Geneva via Flickr
Although South Africa lost early in the World Cup it ultimately emerged a winner. Successfully hosting the event has boosted its international image and its credibility in bidding for the 2020 Olympics. The country that was once infamous for its racist regime and brutality, stands out today as a model for policies in the pursuit of social harmony, inclusive economic growth and efficient democratic governance.
Barely two decades ago, few would have imagined that the ruptured social fabric of South Africa could be knit together after the violent struggle against apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made this possible. By systematically investigating atrocities committed by all sides during the apartheid era (1960-1994) under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act (1995), it cleared the air and hastened inter-racial reconciliation. The three committees under the TRC dealt with human rights violations, rehabilitation of victims, and the issue of granting amnesty.
Hearings were telecast live on television. Perpetrators were granted amnesty if their crimes were politically motivated and fully disclosed before the Commission. In India, when we look at the accumulated injustices and social tensions emanating from the 1984 anti-Sikh, the post-Babri Masjid and Godhra riots, or the more recent horrors in Kashmir and Maoist-affected areas, one can’t help but wonder whether India could develop innovative mechanisms on the TRC model for tackling these emotive issues. This might help remedy past failures and pre-empt future recurrences.
South Africa’s democracy also holds out lessons in good governance. The National Assembly is elected by proportional representation based on choice on the ballot paper between lists of candidates in order of preference from each political party. Since seats in the Assembly are allocated on the basis of percentage of overall votes received, a party can afford to list more meritorious candidates without subjecting them to the hurly burly of constituency-specific politics. The President can then choose ministers from a larger pool of able parliamentarians. The current cabinet has as many as 45 university graduates, many of whom are recognised experts in their fields. South Africa’s electoral system can therefore show the way for Indian politics to address the crying need to attract more worthy individuals.
Aspects of South Africa’s economic policies can be a source of good ideas for promoting inclusive growth. India has sustained rapid economic growth over a decade and more. But the boom does not seem to have percolated enough to the poorer sections of society. In such a scenario, we should look for cues from countries like South Africa. The South African economy was also riddled with problems of widespread unemployment, poverty, isolation from the world economy, and a dualistic social structure. Measures have been taken under the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) policy to stabilise the economy and foster inclusive growth. The government has been spending large amounts on social development.
The results are impressive despite dilution owing to the sizeable influx of populations from other African countries, particularly neighbours like Zimbabwe. Health expenditure in 2007 stood at 8.6 per cent of GDP, almost twice that of India’s 4.1 per cent. Education expenditure in the same year was 5.3 per cent of GDP compared to 4 per cent in India. In terms of public expenditure (2000-2007), the share of education was 17.4 per cent, compared to a mere 10.7 per cent in India. That of health was 10.5-11 per cent, against 3.8 per cent in India. Clearly, our Central and state governments need to do a lot more.
South Africa’s economy — both private and public sectors — was historically in the hand of the white minority, resulting in wide income disparities between racial groups. The Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) initiative was launched to target economic inequality, a root cause of the tensions and insecurities in the country's society. The BBBEE seeks to redistribute wealth by focusing on economic empowerment of blacks within the framework of the market economy. In the corporate sector for instance, government business is conditional on an enterprise’s progress in terms of the share of blacks in its equity and employment. This initiative enables disadvantaged groups to acquire better stakes in the country’s natural resources and industry.
It may be too late for India to draw lessons for organising the Commonwealth Games from South Africa’s spectacular soccer show. But we can certainly learn from the host country in other areas, even if they don’t pertain to football.

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