For decades, South Africa under apartheid has basically been a welfare state for whites, with minimal services for blacks. Now, as apartheid laws are abolished, the ruling National Party influential corporate chieftains are beginning to see the need for a massive shift of resources away from whites and toward blacks.
It won't be painless. Parents of white children in state-run preschool facilities, mostly in lower-middle-class suburbs, were recently notified that fees have been trebled. The aim is to eliminate the disparities between highly subsidized white education and schools run on a shoestring for blacks.
Hoping to dampen widespread violence that threatens his political reforms, President Frederik W. de Klerk is launching a $750 million public-works program to build schools, clinics, and recreational facilities, using labor-intensive methods to create work for some of the 5 million to 7 million jobless. The easing of economic sanctions against South Africa reduces the need for its strategic oil reserve, so de Klerk plans to finance the program by selling oil. It could require selling almost one-quarter of the reserve, estimated in 1989 to total 165 million barrels.
Nedbank, one of South Africa's "big five" banks, has also been briefing officials, businessmen, labor leaders, and politicians of all hues on development plans it has been drawing up. They include building 200,000 homes and preparing 400,000 homesites each year for five years, electrification of 1 million homes, a job corps of 1 million, and a new corporate tax to finance a huge skills-training scheme.
Such short-term remedies, government officials and businessmen concede, will do less to strengthen the economy than long-term growth strategies. But the latter will do no good, they add, if violence tears the society apart. More and more are turning to plans for emergency programs as their only hope for survival.