Prof Raymond Parsons of the NWU Business School received this decoration on 24 February in Worcester.
He was recognised alongside other prominent former residents, including Nobel Prize winner for literature JM Coetzee, culture and human rights champion Danny Titus, legendary singer David Kramer, writer and poet Diana Ferrus and the late Justice Thembile Skweyiya.
It started with a question
Being honoured by the people of Worcester has special meaning for Raymond because he credits the town with shaping his life and career.
“When I was a young boy of about 10 living in the Western Cape, my father – who was a successful local businessman and farmer – took me with him on a visit to the local ‘township’.
“On looking around I asked him: ‘Why are the people here so poor?’ He replied: ‘I don’t know, you need to be an economist to explain it.’ ‘Well, then’, I apparently responded, ‘I want to be an economist.’”
It was the start of his life’s calling. He spent the bulk of his schooling in Worcester, finishing high school at Worcester Boys High where he received the Maskew Miller prize for his academic achievements. “This and my exceptional teachers gave me the confidence to further my education.” He then went on to study economics at the universities Cape Town, Oxford and Copenhagen.
“I learned a lot while living in Worcester. I learned, for one, to be fully bilingual — a skill that I believe eventually led me to the NWU in Potchefstroom.”
History helps you find solutions
Another valuable lesson he learned while in school was the importance of reform and generating social dialogue in a diverse society.
“The seeds were sown for me there through my history teacher. I soon realised that without a firm grasp of a country’s history you will not be able to identify the best solutions for the future. Learning history at school set me on a journey that shaped my life and career; a journey that is not over yet.”
Raymond says that as a resident of Gauteng he does not visit Worcester often. The award ceremony was therefore a great opportunity for him to not only reconnect with the town and its people, but also to thank them for the role they have played in his life.
*The award ceremony was part of the Breede Valley community’s celebration of the 200-year existence of the town of Worcester since it was founded by Lord Charles Somerset. The week-long festival took place from 24 February until 1 March.
Prof Raymond Parsons has written six books on the South African economy, the most recent one being Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: The Role of Business in South Africa, co-authored with Ali Parry, senior researcher at the NWU Trade research focus area.
The place that inspired a boy in his formative years to become a celebrated economist has honoured him with the highest award that a municipality may confer upon an individual — the freedom of the town.
Prof Raymond Parsons received the Freedom of Worcester on 24 February 2020. With him is another recipient of this decoration, legendary singer David Kramer.
NWU economist honoured with
One of the NWU’s celebrated academics Prof Raymond Parsons is a respected economist and frequent television and radio contributor about economics and policy uncertainty in South Africa.