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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Postgraduate student in Economics, Nonenelo Vuba, has been selected as one of the 20 finalists in the 51st Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition.

Jointly sponsored by Nedbank and Old Mutual, the annual competition poses challenging economic scenarios to undergraduate and postgraduate economics students from tertiary institutions across the country that they need to then research and explore.

For this year's competition, the undergraduate essay topic asked students to share their views on the prospects for economic growth in South Africa over the medium term and to evaluate and discuss the most pertinent factors influencing growth prospects.

Furthermore, they were expected to discuss how these factors impacted South Africa's growth during the periods 2004 to 2007 and 2015 to 2019.

The postgraduate students' essay topic was to evaluate the impact of public infrastructure investment on economic growth based on South Africa's post-2000 experience. They were also asked to discuss this impact on the prospects for economic growth in the medium term.

These topics were framed in the context of South Africa’s low economic growth during the past decade, which has largely been blamed on regulatory and policy uncertainty, the slow pace of structural reforms and the impact on worsening power cuts.

The essays submitted provide interesting insights and offer solutions from the students to the economic and infrastructural challenges and opportunities facing South Africa.

This year’s finalists were selected by a filter and adjudication panel comprised of representatives from sponsors Nedbank and Old Mutual, National Treasury, the business sector, academia, and external consultants.

The panel will now evaluate each of the 20 finalists in terms of intellectual sparkle, ability to formulate and express rational arguments, and understanding and knowledge of topical global economic issues. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on budget speech night.

A total of R420 000 in prize money is up for grabs, with the postgraduate winner getting R150 000 for his or her efforts and the top undergraduate entrant walking off with R60 000. The cash prizes awarded to the winners and two runners-up in each category must be used for academic purposes.

“Financing of public infrastructure investment is argued to be one of the indicators that could stabilise the South African economy in terms of economic growth”, notes Nonelelo Vuba.

All emerging and developed nations require efficient sanitation, energy, transport and communication systems if they are to achieve high growth and a decent standard of living. Regrettably, however, South Africa possesses poor infrastructure.

Improvements in public infrastructure investments occurred prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and in 2012, the government introduced the National Infrastructure Plan for the purposes of changing the way the economy operates while also creating jobs and improving the provision of essential services.

Investments in public infrastructure that directly contribute to growth have an impact on other industries' productivity. This includes spending on telecommunications, water, transportation and energy infrastructure.

Nonelelo’s essay focuses on the impact of public road transportation infrastructure investment on economic growth, noting that various scholars have suggested that investment in the road transportation infrastructure is of the utmost importance, providing a decent standard of living and having a positive effect on job creation and economic growth.

He posits, however, that any positive impact of public road transportation infrastructure in South Africa on economic growth may be negated by the high level of corruption in the country, which hampers economic development and economic growth.