The White Tiger and the Rooster Coop

Aravind Adiga in The White Tiger raises important questions and completes an important feat – rendering the complex concepts of poverty traps and the rah-rah around entrepreneurship accessible in a devastating tale.

The-White-Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, Atlantic Books, Published March 2009, 336 pages, ISBN: 978 1 84354 722 8

The entrepreneurial story is often about young men – women rarely feature as protagonists – undertaking the journey from rags to riches.  Through hard work, attending the University of Hard Knocks the protagonists find a route to social mobility and respect. This universal storyline has been criticised so consistently that to equate entrepreneurial success with hard work, dedication and perseverance – without referencing to contextual factors – is to be guilty of the Haratio Alger Myth. The author Haratio Alger, was an extremely popular American author writing in the 19th century, who told stories of industrious young men overcoming their poverty, with hard work, initiative and perseverance, and through that becoming not only wealthy, but virtuous people. There is an importance in not reproducing this myth, for as much as we admire the successful and ethical entrepreneur, it provides little understanding of the reasons for her success.


Can the opposite however be true? In criticising those perpetuating the  Haratio Alger Myth we may overemphasis the contextual factors that have led to entrepreneurial success. Yet, there is a deeper conclusion that we may reach – entrepreneurial success may transform the lives of the person, but it is not powerful and disruptive enough to change the underlying economic system, meaning that the majority of people stay trapped in conditions of exclusion and exploitation. A demanding question that South Africa must face, and the reason The White Tiger – set in India – has relevance to us in South Africa.

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National Planning Commission Goes Facebook, excludes most South Africans

South Africans given first opportunity to input on the development of the National Plan, but only for internet users.
On Zapreneur, I have argued that the national planning process must be made more open for the National Planning Commission to meet its goals. While it is presumptuous to indicate that the article had an influence, The Presidency announced that it will be having NPC Jam Session running for five days starting on the 28 March 2011.

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Safety for Women – The allocations are there, what about implementation?

Going safely home. Johannesburg, : Women on their way home after a day's work, in Noord Street in the city centre. Photo: Chris Kirchhoff, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com

In his Budget speech, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan made specific reference to creating safer communities.  While we welcome the increases to the budget allocation, we await to see how the department of Police and Justice and Constitutional Development will spend it.
With the technological revolution, we are fast becoming “online communities” and we are also seeing more crimes perpetrated using advanced technology. As  online spaces are also becoming unsafe (a reflection of what is happening in our society), especially for young girls and women, we need our police and justice system to respond to the challenges. Perpetrators of gender based violence are increasingly using technology to lure, track, monitor and stalk women and girls.

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A Budget for a New Era of Engagement

Signal vs. Noise in Fiscal Policy Telkom's microwave tower on Naval Hill. Photo: Graeme Williams Credit: Media Club South Africa (http://www.mediaclubsa.com)

Debates on the national budget have been called “noisy.”
Budget 2011 has been particularly noisy, as the sheer number of voices responding to the budget has increased, as has the complexity of the arguments being made.
This is a healthy development as it strengthens democracy, and ensures that government becomes accountable and society focuses not only on criticisms, but also alternatives.
The central challenge for government is not only to detect the signal through this noise, but to amplify the signal by taking on board as many players as possible. Government to date has not managed to do this with the furore around the youth subsidy, a case in point.

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Enter the entrepreneur? Budget 2011 Proposals for Many Small Businesses not Just White Tigers

 

Zapreneur declares it has an interest in this subject. Photo - Moe and Milsey's Construction Company

We like them. The small business that succeeds against the odds. Minister Gordhan even saluted a couple of success stories on the budget. In the build up to the budget, I choose to read The White Tiger by Indian author Aravind Adiga . The White Tiger provides a devastating description of the poverty traps, and that rare success stories translate to private gain without a wider social impact. The central premise of the book is that successful entrepreneurs are as rare as white tigers. In fact, in South Africa the data provided by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor indicates that job creating, opportunity based businesses are a rarity in South Africa. The book though not set in South Africa provides a useful refrain from the rah-rah usually associated with entrepreneurship. What then does the budget propose for the small business entrepreneur?

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Youth Subsidy and building consensus

KwaZulu-Natal Midlands: Ceramic painters Zama Nqubuku (foreground) and Wiseman Ndlovu at work in the Ardmore Ceramics studio. Photo: Hannelie Coetzee

Minister Pravin Gordhan reintroduction of the proposals around the youth subsidy is a brave political decision, given the overwhelming and justifiable criticism of the proposal. In tabling the new proposal Minister Gordhan has listened to the criticism and opted to tweak the proposal. The first proposal provided a wage subsidy or hiring voucher to lower cost of labour and compensate employers for the perceived risk of hiring inexperienced workers. In tweaking the proposal, government has shifted from this position, so that it is now to be administered as a tax credit. This is significant step as it potentially means that entry-level wages will remain the same.

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