About the Department

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After Prof Sadie retired at the end of 1983, Prof Anthony Melck was appointed in 1984. He stayed at the Department for four years. In 1988, he became the Registrar and then Rector of the University of South Africa. His next step was to work as a special advisor to the rector at the University of Pretoria. He has since retired and is involved in organ building in Austria, where he and his wife also stays.

Prof Melck was studying at the University of Cambridge when he received the offer to become a lecturer. The offer raised before him a difficult decision, since he had to choose between a career in Economics and entering the organ-business. Luckily, even though he had already accepted a job from an organ-builder in Germany, he decided on a future in Economics. Nevertheless, Prof Melck did not lose his affinity for the music of Bach and Handel.

In his doctoral thesis, Prof Melck commented on the financial policy of universities. He argued for lecturers to receive financial aid for articles that appeared in specified journals. Since then, the system has been implemented and works to the advantage of lecturers at all universities.

Prof Melck was not only an excellent researcher, but also an esteemed lecturer. His way of talking and dry humour ensured the attention of his students.

After Prof Melck left the Department, Prof Philip Black took his place in July 1988. Before coming to Stellenbosch, he was a professor in Economics and History of Economics at the University of Rhodes. Prof Black left after three years, becoming professor in Economics and director of the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town. However, he started lecturing at Stellenbosch again, and has been appointed as professor extraordinary since January 2002. His main fields of study are Welfare Economics, Applied Microeconomics and Public Economics.

Like all other professors in Economics at Stellenbosch University, Prof Black has also made a great contribution to policy formulation. He was a member of the President's Advising Council for Economics, and his position as research director of the South African Foundation was also strongly policy orientated.

Prof Black has a long list of publications in local and international journals. He has also co-authored several books, including Public Economics for South African Students (Oxford University Press, 2005). In addition, he was the editor of the South African Journal of Economics for many years. Prof Black passed away in 2015.

After Prof Black left Stellenbosch at the end of 1990, Prof Ben Smit filled the vacant post at the beginning of 1991. All his academic qualifications, including a DCom, was obtained at Stellenbosch University. Ben Smit had been a lecturer at the Department since 1975, but was employed as a full-time senior researcher at the Bureau for Economic Research between 1980 and 1984. During the same time he started constructing a macro-econometric model for South Africa that could be used for policy purposes. The model has been perfected through the years and is now widely used as a reliable policy tool.

In the undergraduate and postgraduate classes that he presented, Prof Smit concentrated on International Finance, Macroeconomics and Applied Econometrics. In 1998 he rejoined the Bureau for Economic Research as its Director on a part-time basis, dividing his time between the Department and the Bureau. He retired at the end of 2016.

In addition to the fact that he published many articles and research reports, Ben Smit also acted as a consultant for several institutions. The most notable of these are the National Treasury (since 1993), the Southern African Development Bank (1994-1995), the World Bank (1996-1998) and the Harvard Group (2006-2008). Together with Prof Servaas van der Berg, he served on the technical committee that set out South Africa's reigning macro-economic strategy during 1995 and 1996, namely the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy. In 2010 he was appointed as a non-executive director on the Board of the South African Reserve Bank.

Prof Servaas van der Berg was appointed professor in July 1991. He received his BCom and BComHons at the University of Natal, his MCom at the University of Pretoria and his PhD at Stellenbosch University. In 1982 he started working at the Department.

Prof Van der Berg investigates socio-economic problems and therefore his fields of research and lecturing include Development Economics, policy issues related to income distribution and poverty, security, subsistence and public finance. Analysis of statistical household data provides the basis for much of his research.

By nature of his field of interest, Prof Van der Berg's work is also strongly policy orientated. Furthermore he acts as economic advisor for several institutions and plays a permanent role in a variety of advisory committees. Examples of his involvement are his membership of the advisory committee of the National Treasury. He has also served as advisor to the World Bank, the Southern African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Western Cape Treasury and several institutions in the private sector. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).

Prof Van der Berg was awarded the Research Chair in the Economics of Social Policy funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2008, a first for the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. In 2012 it was announced that the Research Chair will receive funding for a further five-year period.

The renewal of the chair is a feather in the cap of a man whose work has a significant impact on South Africans’ understanding of poverty and education in the country. Over the past five years, Prof Van der Berg has led a strong team of researchers and postgraduate students in producing research that is undeniably relevant to the social and economic challenges faced by our country.

The research chair has contributed towards funding and opportunities for 11 Honours students, 15 Masters students, 10 PhD students and one post-doctoral fellow. In particular, the chair has allowed Prof Van der Berg to mentor a large number of students both male and female, and of all race groups, to progress to the level of PhD. In 2010, one of his PhD students, Carlos Maia, won a national research competition in Mozambique (his native country), and a number of his students have won scholarships to pursue part of their studies abroad. Amongst other studies, the research group has looked at the effects of the international economic crisis on child poverty in South Africa; investigated to what extent the funds allocated to Early Childhood Development are actually improving the outcomes for children in schools and crèches; completed a costing exercise to assess the fiscal viability of the mooted National Health Insurance plan; and produced a basic services index to gauge whether municipalities have been able to improve municipal service provision.

Perhaps the most telling achievement is the fact that the research chair has generated more than R10 million in additional funding against a backdrop of research that is often critical of current policies and the status quo in the economy. The work of the chair is valued by stakeholders across the public, private and non-governmental sectors. The list of funders includes local and national government, the private sector, international financial institutions and the United Nations.

It is this combination of relevance and research that the NRF saw fit to reward with a renewal of funding. In its submission of reasons for renewing the chair, the NRF cited that its student support and training have been impressive, with a high Masters and PhD graduation rate; that research achievements have been significant and are being used to inform the development of social policy; and that the chair has fostered strong collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Umalusi (the educational certification body), and the World Bank.

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BER Weekly

18 September 2017
Data reported on the domestic economy last week covered the current account balance for Q2, as well as retail and wholesale sales in July. Accordingly, SA registered its third consecutive trade surplus in the second quarter. Despite this improvement on the back of higher commodity prices, transfer payments to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU)...

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BER Weekly

18 September 2017
Data reported on the domestic economy last week covered the current account balance for Q2, as well as retail and wholesale sales in July. Accordingly, SA registered its third consecutive trade surplus in the second quarter. Despite this improvement on the back of higher commodity prices, transfer payments to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU)...

Read the full issue