We have lost our ‘economy business uncle’

It is with great sadness that I heard of Mike Schusler’s death this morning.

He was one of the best economists in South Africa and a friend for many years.

In many ways, he was much more than a mere economist and I regard him more as an economic statistician.

He was almost an abacus descending the stairs কেউ someone who could recall detailed economic data from many years ago. For example, once during a debate on television, he quoted numerous economic indicators from a decade ago to refute another participant’s argument. I can still remember the way the whole panel looked at him in amazement.

This feature, combined with his knowledge of economics, made him a notable economist.

Mike was almost the ‘uncle in the business of economics’. He was the name of a family, and people believed his opinion because he spoke a language that everyone in the country could understand.

He will be one of the first economists to receive comments on development from many journalists. I am sure that many other economists have listened to his opinion before forming their own.

He also did not always follow the middle path. He wrote articles that provided real evidence of the state of our economy, as opposed to popular belief. These were left-wing views that could influence policy-making, and rightly so.

When I ask him if he found the statistics based on the article, he would almost be annoyed: “It’s statistics SA data. It’s in an add-on that other people don’t read.”

In this context, South Africa has lost its almost opposite view of our complex economy.

Mike wore his passion on his sleeve.

Many years ago, Mike and I worked on publishing several provincial business barometers. These were specially designed indicators that measured the level of economic activity in different provinces of the country. Mike created the indicators, and we did a road show to find a sponsor.

The first pit stop was in Cape Town, where we were to meet with the Economic Development Agency Wesgro. However, the meeting was canceled when we were standing in the foyer of the organization’s head office, and in a conversation with the receptionist it became clear that Wesgro officials had forgotten about the meeting.

The meeting was hurriedly rescheduled for the next day, and when we finally sat down at a conference table, Mike unequivocally expressed his extreme frustration with Wesgro’s behavior and called it tantamount to poor service delivery. Needless to say, the meeting did not last long and Wesgro did not become a sponsor.

As we went out, he commented: “Maybe I shouldn’t have done this … Can I buy you lunch?”

I would like to extend my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

We lost a big one. Rest in peace Mike.

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