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Are we too cautious about fiscal redistribution?

On 7 April 2014, Honourary Professor Andrew Donaldson, Deputy Director-General: National Treasury delivered a seminar, entitled “Implementing the National Development Plan: Issues in Public Finance: Are We Too Cautious about Fiscal Redistribution?” He argued the case for more direct redistribution policies in the light of empirical evidence that lower inequality contributes to more durable economic growth.  By implication he challenged the audience to rethink ideas which tend to be uncritically believed as indisputable facts. His address demonstrates National Treasury’s openness to debating key policy issues publicly and policy makers’ ability to rise up to the challenge, also academically.
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Michael Jordaan delivers first lecture

Do you contribute to South Africa’s GDP by reading this newsletter? No. Similarly, if we search for the telephone number of the local restaurant on Google, or the weather prediction for tomorrow on, has anything been added to GDP? No. How do we measure the ‘free’ goods and services all of us consume everyday? We don’t. But because our utility (or happiness or satisfaction) has increased significantly through these services, it could only mean that we are underestimating GDP or, put differently, that GDP is incapable of measuring the vast gains from technological progress we’ve made over the last three decades.

Call it ‘freeconomics’ says Michael Jordaan, former CEO of FNB and now head of Montegray Capital in Stellenbosch. Jordaan presented his first lecture as new honorary professor in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Economics, and captivated the audience with a crash course of the most revolutionary technological changes today. Much like Malthus had compared the arithmetic increase in food production with the geometric increase in population, Jordaan claimed that the exponential growth in information and, conversely, the exponential decline in the cost of information, necessitate economists to adjust – or perhaps toss and completely rethink - their classic microeconomic models. This new model, he conjectured, is driven by technologies of the digital age, where the marginal costs of services are close to zero, where demand is unconstrained by price and where scarcity has been replaced by the abundance of products and services that are available for free online.
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Stan du Plessis appointed dean of Economic and Management Sciences

Stan du Plessis, Professor in the Economics Department, was appointed dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences from 1 February 2014.

"SU's strategic objectives - to broaden access, maintain the momentum of excellence and to promote the university's impact on society - are consistent with my expectations of what is possible within the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) over the next decade," says Du Plessis. He is convinced these objectives can be achieved by, among others, building on the Faculty's excellent record of education in both Afrikaans and English, expanding the international exposure of lecturers, students and research, and increasing the number of doctoral students. Furthermore, "(t)he research questions in EMS touch on some of society's most urgent challenges and we have a real opportunity to make a significant impact on society."

Professor Du Plessis has also recently received recognition as a financial analyst. He was ranked 4th in the category Innovative Research in the Financial Mail's latest Ranking the Analysts survey. The survey report states, "Navigating your way to the top of the pile takes fortitude, investment and dogged focus. The Financial Mail's rankings, now in their 37th year, recognise those who have succeeded."
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Innovative solutions needed to tackle housing crisis

Former student Carel Kleynhans was recently awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue his MPhil in Real Estate Finance at Cambridge University. He intends to further his understanding of innovative financial mechanisms that can enable private sector driven affordable housing delivery. Carel’s research and professional work is informed by his belief that the public sector and non-profit initiatives cannot deliver affordable housing at the scale that is required in the broader African context. In order to deliver affordable housing that is integrated into sensible urban environments, he believes it is necessary to find ways to make it attractive for the private sector to drive this development. 

Carel is currently employed by a pan-African investment bank in Johannesburg, where he works on affordable housing finance and development projects. Prior to this he completed his Honours in Economics at Stellenbosch University in 2012, for which he was awarded the S.A Cloete Medal for best postgraduate student in the Department of Economics.
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Top students recognised

The Department recently recognised the achievements of the best students in Economics at its annual prizegiving ceremony at Moore's End in the Dwarsrivier Valley.

Chris Hart was the top postgraduate student in 2013, and won the SA Cloete medal (best postgradute student in economics) for his achievement of an aggregate 81% for his Honours degree studies in 2013. He also received the Ibn Khaldun medal and a cash prize from Genesis Analytics (handed over by Sibonakaliso Mavuka of Genesis).

In the undergraduate category, Lewis McLean was the winner of the SA Cloete medal (best undergraduate student, based on performance in all three years of undergraduate studies).

Prizes were also awarded to the top students in first and second place in each of the three undergraduate years as well as Honours and Masters.
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