Original publish date – Wed, 17 Aug 2011 07:12:44 +0000, Keith

The recent comments by Archbishop Tutu caused some controversy. He complained that the rate of transformation is too slow and the inequalities in our economy still remain – the gap between rich and poor is still too great. He is of course correct. The recent release of the employment equity statistics by the commission for employment equity shows that management jobs are still dominated by white people.

Tutu then suggested a wealth tax. Please note he did not suggest  a white wealth tax. The “white” was added by the media without foundation. His actual comments can be found here (courtesy of @gussilber via Twitter), and a video of his talk can be seen on Youtube. The Archbishop is probably not aware that B-BBEE is intended to solve all the problems he identified, in a far more elegant manner than a tax.

B-BBEE is not a tax, because it is voluntary and companies are encouraged to comply, by not necessarily only spending money. It is not a tax because it requests actions, rather than a pure monetary spend. In some ways it can be seen as a levy – e..g with regards to skills development it asks companies to spend 2% or 3% of their payroll on training of their own staff. With regards to enterprise development and socio-economic development it asks companies to spend between 1% and 3% of net profit after tax on those activities. The spend does not need to be pure money – it can be a monetary equivalent, e.g a company can spend time helping a smaller business, and this will be classed as enterprise development. There are other methods of earning B-BBEE points that do not require spending money (tax), like procurement where companies will encourage transformation by asking their own suppliers for their B-BBEE certificates. In this way every company will contribute towards transformation, leveling the playing fields, without the need for a wealth tax.

Some companies have done a wonderful job of complying with the B-BBEE codes and genuinely made a difference to the lives of the people they touched. Many other companies have a reluctance to achieve, and it is this reluctance that Tutu, and others are seeing. Their good, but slightly misguided intentions are a direct result at seeing slow transformation.

Some years back we wrote an article headlined “The alternative to B-BBEE is B-BBEE”, implying that when you look at it, and if transformation is needed the best alternate remains the B-BBEE codes, warts and all. Any other alternative proposed would not be as effective or efficient!

With regard to a wealth tax, government does not have a great record of spending our tax money.  Given the option I’d far rather decide for myself whom to support, train than let government tell me, and possibly waste the money. This is what B-BBEE proposes. If you do have to spend 3% of profit after tax, why not decide for yourself how best to do it, in the way that works, and makes business sense to you?

For five years we have been saying that B-BBEE has to succeed – the alternative will be people proposing some outrageous solutions taht we are seeing right now, such as nationalisation or wealth taxes.