The SA-TIED report is a summary of the programme’s major research contributions to the policy environment. These contributions are not policy proposals, but are meant to inform the policymaking process and fill important gaps in our evidence base.
The recent Business Day Dialogues in partnership with the SA-TIED programme, unpacked the diverse work of the SA-TIED programme and shared insights to further bridge the gap between research and policy-making.
Boipuso Modise, acting deputy-director general of the Economic Policy Division at National Treasury revealed that the programme has made a significant contribution to building capacity in economic analysis and evidence-based policymaking.
“Through the programme, 11 PhD scholarships were awarded to public servants while more than 50 students participated in the Young Scholars Programme,” she said, adding that the latter exposed master’s students to the work environment while producing relevant research.
The success of the programme accomplished through deep engagement between researchers and public institutions and because of the commitment of all the partners to work together to improve the interface between research and policy-making, said Modise.
A key component of the SA-TIED programme is a Tax Data Lab, a secure, state-of-the-art facility located at National Treasury which makes tax data available to academics and policy makers for research purposes. The Data Lab provides anonymised data across all the tax products that SARS administers, which in turn provide nuanced and detailed insights into the economy.
Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana explained that the tax data generated by the lab allows government to evaluate policy design including the long term effects of social programmes. Linking different data sets allows government to approach policy questions from new angles and perspectives.
South Africa’s current tax policy, which built on efficiency, fairness and simplicity, aims to grow revenue, he explained.
“The SA-TIED report allows us to better understand the challenges South Africa’s economy faces and support more inclusive policy design,” he said.
He added that critical to stimulating economic growth in SA will be supporting small and medium sized enterprises. Operation Vulindlela – a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury – has been tasked with accelerating the implementation of structural reforms to increase economic dynamism and support potential growth. Creating an environment in which small businesses can emerge and grow will be key to the economic recovery. Godongwana said a recalibration of policy measures to support greater access to private sector finance – particularly for SMEs – is required.
Conceding that there is no silver bullet to ensuring a robust and resilient economy, he said it is important that various activities, including South Africa’s economic policies, are co-ordinated.
While macro-economic policy on its own cannot address the country’s poor growth trajectory, Godongwana said efficient macroeconomic policy plays a critical role in addressing income inequality.
Professor Kunal Sen, Director of UNU-WIDER and an international expert on the political economy of growth and development, revealed that UNU-WIDER will continue to guide the programme’s research along with local partners as SA-TIED moves into its second phase in 2022.
“The next phase of SA-TIED will emphasise collaborations and inclusivity across the entire operation, including the three programmatic pillars of research, capacity development and policy-bridging, as well as adopting a curious approach to explore new research areas, collaborations and activities that can result in even larger impact on the ground in both the short and long term,” he said.
New areas that the second phase will focus on will include an increased investment in building data infrastructure for policy-relevant research around enterprise development, public revenue mobilisation and inequality.
“Countries need data and evidence to create, amend and evaluate policy,” said Sen. “South Africa has been at the vanguard of data collection in Sub-Saharan Africa with strong and long-standing institutions collecting data for research purposes. Making tax administrative microdata available for research purposes places South Africa at the forefront of big data research for development and puts the country in a novel position relative to other developing and emerging economies.”
The pandemic has amplified the macro fiscal challenges South Africa was already facing, said Sen. The second phase of SA-TIED will put the spotlight on fiscal policy questions and macroeconomic policy modelling, that will help inform policy makers. This will include research and analysis on how South Africa can devise policies that lead to sustainable growth but at the same time reduce inequality through fiscal redistribution.
The full SA-TIED Report is available at: https://sa-tied.wider.unu.edu/article/platform-evidence-based-policy-formulation-lessons-sa-tied