Social compact encompasses an elaborate but dynamic cooperation between the society and the government. It involves collective reasoning on how to foster unity through issues such as power and resources. Due to the socioeconomic crisis that has resulted in incessant increase in the unemployment rate, poverty and criminal activities, it is expedient that fruitful partnership exists between stakeholders to ensure all citizens are carried along in the scheme of things. Social compact involves collaboration between the government, civil society organizations, communities, business and labour. There is usually a driving force towards the actualization of social compact in every society which is to promote and ensure a very viable society that ensures job creation, sustainability of businesses, accountability and welfarism of workers among others. This was well emphasized by the South African President when he was delivering the State of the Nation Address in parliament few years ago. President Ramaphosa said, as documented by GoLegal Industry News and Insights, that “government must create an enabling environment and use public resources wisely. Business stakeholders need to keep the country’s national strategic objectives in mind when taking decisions, labour has to advance the interests of workers while promoting business sustainability and job creation, and civil society is tasked with holding government to account while participating to achieve common goals”. The onset of COVID-19 caused a lot of setbacks to the economy of South Africa. There was increment in job losses, criminality, underemployment, fraud and gender inequality during the pandemic. Most of South Africa’s goods worth 15.22 Billion dollars are always imported from china. A halt in the economy of china due to COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the economy of South Africa. The already ailing South Africa’s economy was aggravated with the total lockdown declared by the South African President on 27th March 2020. The recovery stage of COVID-19 is expected to be enhanced by social compact, geared towards enhancing rapid growth in the economy. Social compact in the areas of agriculture, health and SMEs is expected to yield positive results that can sustain the socioeconomic status of the citizens. For quick recovery during the era of COVID-19, the President called for a new social compact among all stakeholders in the society (labour, business, government and community) to help in the restructuring of the economy to achieve inclusive growth.
The workability of social compact
For social compact to be effective in a society, there are strategies that must be put in place to ensure its workability. Some of the strategies include but not limited to:
Proper diagnosis of the problem: Before the initiation of social compact, there must be a thorough survey and diagnosis of the problems on ground on the targeted or vulnerable population. This will ensure a critical focus on how to bring the most effective solution to the problem at hand. It will also ensure the problems are tackled in order of priority. This strategy is expected to put into consideration vulnerable groups and how different groups will be affected in the process of finding solutions to the identified problem(s).
Reduce prejudice: For social compact to work effectively, bias must not be tolerated at any level. Social compact must not be used as political settlements for addressing or solving localized issues at the expense of national interest; but rather, promote unity and trust among the populace. Government and political appointees must be guided by the principles of the compact and must ensure a level playing ground for the overall success of the compact. Relevant stakeholders or partners of the social compact must be well informed about the terms and conditions involved without compromise.
Inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders: It is important that none of the stakeholders is side-lined. In fact, all relevant stakeholders must be properly engaged in national discuss and the best strategy adopted. There must be transparency and accountability in all aspect of the compact. If any policy must be reviewed or changed after the compact agreement has been made, relevant partners should be engaged and their consent must be sought. Government must ensure all stakeholders are carried along with any change in policy.
Ensuring implementation of relevant policies: Policies that can make social compact work must be enacted by the legislatures. This will ensure a seamless process in all the activities necessary for social compact to work. Government must also ensure that relevant policies are implemented to encourage stakeholders that are ready for partnership in different areas of the economy. If enabling environment is created by the government, it will be very easy to find potential partners who will be willing to get involved in social compact. It will also encourage the compact partners to carry out their responsibilities with ease.
Social cohesion: The hallmark of social compact is the need for unity and cordial relationship. The government must not be seen promoting divisiveness through policies rolled out as part of the agreement between the stakeholders. Strategies that will be adopted must be the type that discourage divisibility among ethnic/racial groups. One of the major benefit of social compact is social cohesion and this must not be allowed to slide away under any guise. There must be a two way communication medium that will ensure trust is built concerning the actions of the government. More efforts should be geared towards promoting accountability in all aspect of the compact. Support by the concerned communities and cooperation by the community leaders will also go a long way in ensuring the workability of the compact. The dividends of the social compact should be the type that will further unite the citizens; that is, all efforts must ensure equitability in the distribution of resources among neighbouring communities.
There must be consequences for compromise: Appropriate punishment must be enforced for individuals that may want to scuttle the compact under any guise. Such punishment must have been well stated and enacted even before the take-off of the compact. This will serve as caution and will also prevent any type of sabotage that may want to come from any actor. In doing this, the overall interest of the country will be protected and paramount in the hearts of all the citizens.
In conclusion, due to the resent COVID-19 pandemic which has grossly affected the socioeconomic wellbeing of most South Africa’s citizens, it is expedient to call for social compact to reduce the rate of corruption, unemployment, underemployment, gender inequality, etc. For an effective social compact, all hands must be on deck, relevant stakeholders must stand up to their responsibilities and government must also create an enabling environment for it to work.
Dr Olusola Bodede is a Postdoctoral researcher. He writes in his personal capacity.