NWU Vaal boasts with exemplary performance in Nedbank/Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition
When it comes to the subject of Economics, the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), does more than merely make sense of concepts such as inflation; monetary reserves; fiscal policy; macroeconomics and microeconomics.
The School of Economic Sciences – within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology, exceeds all expectations especially when it comes to its students’ participation in the Nedbank/Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition.
|Dr André Mellet||Dr Diana Viljoen|
The School of Economic Sciences has been participating in this prestige competition for more than two decades and annually boasts with candidates – both undergraduate and postgraduate, in the Top 20 or Top 10 rankings. Each year the ten best candidates – as decided upon by a judging panel of Old Mutual, in each category are treated to a three day visit to the Mother City. During this visit they visit various tourist attractions, get to attend the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech in Parliament and get spoiled to a gala dinner.
During 2014 the School of Economic Sciences had four candidates within the national Top 20 within the postgraduate category, and after a strenuous screening process one student - Michelle de Lange, managed to clinch a position within the national Top 10 ranking. The four students who represented the NWU Vaal during the 2013/2014 competition were: Michelle de Lange, Cherise du Plessis, Maleshoane Mokoena and Lazarus Shabangu. During the 2012/2013 competition the NWU Vaal also boasted with four candidates in the national finals. In 2008 the School of Economics made history when Lindokuhle Dingiswayo – a postgraduate student at that point in time, became the first-ever black female winner of the competition.
A winning team to give guidance
The success of the students can be ascribed to the mentorship and guidance they receive from a dedicated team of lecturers. At the helm of the School’s participation and achievements are Dr André Mellet and Dr Diana Viljoen.
Dr Mellet acts as the coordinator between the NWU Vaal and the organisers of the competition. “It is my role to motivate the students to take part, and to liaise with the organisers in terms of registration and the application process,” explains Dr Mellet. During the course of the academic year all students in economics have to complete an assignment based on one of the questions posed by the Nedbank/Old Mutual Budget Speech competition. According to Dr Mellet - who is responsible for the Honours’ students, a special facilitation session is scheduled during which the question is discussed at length. During this facilitation session the impetus is on delivering an academic assignment indicative of a high level of insight as well as well-grounded research methodologies. After the group facilitation session, Dr Mellet hosts several individual discussion sessions with each of his students to determine their progress and to give the necessary guidance.
As one of the national judges for the final undergraduate and postgraduate divisions, Dr Mellet plays an integral role in the betterment of the standard of the entrees received. Each year he has to thoroughly examine more than 200 essays and subsequently award a mark to it.
Together with Dr Diana Viljoen – also a lecturer within the School of Economics, these two academic staff members also serve as virtual tutors for the competition. The function of these virtual tutors are to aid students from different universities across South Africa with their preparation for entrance into the competition. Assignments are forwarded electronically to Dr Mellet and Dr Viljoen and they then have to give guidance and make input to better the standard of each assignment.
The value of the competition
According to Dr Mellet, the competition helps students to really get to know their subject and to grapple with real-time issues such as monetary policy, macroeconomics, microeconomics and challenges such as unemployment, the National Development Plan and the balance sheet of the national government.
During 2013/2014 the challenges posed to the participating postgraduate students included the weak balance sheet of Eskom and the subsequent challenge put to the company – from government, to supply electricity to all South Africans, free of charge. Mellet explains that the impact of this disposition is that the government is tasking Eskom with poverty alleviation and in order for Eskom to meet its operational capacity, it has to continually increase tariffs which the impacts on the country’s inflation rate.
In terms of the undergraduate participants, the focus was on the impact of unions in terms of production costs.
“It is of utmost importance that our students get as much research exposure as possible,” says Dr Mellet and adds that the practical application of especially macroeconomic practices are invaluable to the depth of knowledge of each student with an interest in economics,” says Dr Mellet.
More about the Nedbank/Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition
The competition dates back to the early 1970’s and the sponsors, Old Mutual and Nedbank, run the competition on an annual basis in collaboration with the National Treasury. The top essays are also made available to the National Treasury and therefore it allows young economists first-hand experience into their chosen field of expertise.
|Lindokuhle Dingiswayo, the 2008 winner|