Superstar French economist Thomas Piketty may not have made it to the Mother City for his much-anticipated lecture, but a discussion about global and South African poverty inequality still rang through UCT's Jameson Hall on 30 September.
Logistical gremlins meant that the Parisian professor couldn't board his plane to Cape Town, and the live-stream contingency plan suffered glitches, but the audience and panel members still debated the economist-extraordinaire's work.
Chair of proceedings Trevor Manuel, former national minister of finance, asked UCT's Professor Murray Leibbrandt, director of the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, to talk the audience through Piketty's Powerpoint presentation, which Leibbrandt agreed to.
Leibbrandt's take on Piketty's work sparked a discussion with the audience, many of whom put forward their views on economic inequality in South Africa and globally.
One of the panellists that was due to respond to Piketty, Associate Professor Debbie Collier, recalled his take on 2012's Marikana massacre. For Piketty, tensions between capital and labour in South Africa ran dangerously high, with sometimes lethal consequences, as demonstrated in Marikana.
Collier and her fellow panellist, Professor Olajide Oloyede of the University of the Western Cape, decried South Africa's adoption of neo-liberal economic policies since 1996, with Collier wondering whether the country might be better off if “we invested in ourselves” rather than focusing on seducing foreign direct investment.
Piketty, author of the economics magnum opus Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was due to deliver a lecture at UCT as part of a tour of the country arranged by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Story by Yusuf Omar. Image by Michael Hammond.
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