Impervious to policy: revisiting the HSRC's heterodox economic approach to South Africa's persistent structural complexities
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This chapter looks at the economics research that was conducted by the HSRC over two decades and across four previous iterations of the economics unit, namely the Economic Employment Policy Research Programme (EEPR), 2000 2004, Economic Growth and Development Initiative (EGDI), 2005 2008, Centre for Poverty and Economic Growth (CPEG), 2009 2010, and the Economic Performance and Development
Research Programme (EPD), 2011-2020. Given the HSRC's mandate of conducting evidence-based policy research, the main thrust of the economics research unit was to a large extent influenced by the imperatives of national policy and the HSRC's strategic imperative. EEPR had a stronger focus on employment, and the change to EGDI was aligned with the national shift towards the need to address the constraints to shared growth as defined by the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) (Government of South Africa, 2007). The need for AsgiSA arose from the commitment made by the African National Congress (ANC) in its 2004 election manifesto to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014 through the realisation of
shared growth (Altman 2004; ANC 2004). Given the possibility of jobless growth, there was later a need within the HSRC to broaden the thematic focus of the unit to include issues of how its economic research would contribute towards poverty reduction, leading to the reconstitution of the unit as CPEG in 2009. The shift to EPD in 2011 brought the unit full circle, as it highlighted the need for a broader understanding of South Africa's overall economic performance, both micro and macro, and how that performance contributed to the development of the country. This chapter begins by looking at the conceptual framework that was used to guide the economics research conducted at the HSRC during the period under review, followed by a brief discussion of the economic context that informed the thematic orientation of the HSRC's economics work and the focus of national policy. The final section discusses how the programme of work was structured within the economics unit.