Business gives new govt structure thumbs up

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa's business leaders and analysts have expressed confidence in the new government structure.

President Jacob Zuma announced a new restructured administration on Sunday, which includes amongst others a new national Planning Commission (NPC), a monitoring and evaluation portfolio and a new Department of Economic Development.

The Department of Economic Development, to be headed by Secretary General of the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union, Ebrahim Patel, will be tasked with formulating economic policy, a function previously performed by the National Treasury.

Speaking to BuaNews on Monday, Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) Chief Executive Officer Jerry Vilakazi welcomed President Zuma's restructured cabinet, adding that business was looking forward to a "more transformed" economy.

"We welcome the president's announcement of his new Cabinet and we hope the new Economic Development Ministry will provide space for the development of SMMEs," Mr Vilakazi said.

He said the appointment of Trevor Manuel to head the NPC was an affirmation of President Zuma's comments about h is administration being an "efficient, caring and effective"one.

"We hope and trust this signals the transformation of our government and that those who find themselves in the informal sector of our economy will be assisted," Mr Vilakazi added.

BUSA also welcomed the appointment of the new Finance Minister: "We welcome the appointment of Pravin (Gordhan) a well-known figure in business circles".

It further welcomed, Rob Davies as Trade and Industry Minister, saying he was known for his dedication.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) also applauded the new government structure and allocation of key portfolios.

"From a local business as well as investor confidence point of view, key to the establishment of the new administration was continuity of economic policy.

"With Pravin Gordhan in the Ministry of Finance and Trevor Manuel assuming responsibility for the National Planning Commission we believe that concerns around rapid, radical economic policy changes are put to rest. The central bank Governor serving out the remainder of his term under the new administration also provides some assurance of continuity in monetary policy in the immediate future," said SACCI Chief Executive Officer Neren Rau.

Mr Rau said SACCI believed that the principles underlying the establishment of the NPC and the restructuring of various ministerial portfolios seem to have been grounded in sound management strategies.

"If appropriately implemented (it) should be successful in meeting the current and emerging challenges facing our nation," he said.

Acting Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the Wits Business School, Dr Simon Rodney, said placing Mr Manuel, a respected strategist and the world's longest serving finance minister at the helm of the NPC, was a boost for the commission.

"He is a very accurate and hard working man and on top of that he has an incredible record in having led one of the main challenging portfolios (Treasury) ," Dr Rodney said.

He said under Mr Manuel and Collin Chabane, who will oversee the monitoring and evaluation portfolio in the Presidency, a smooth coordination between the presidency and government departments could be achieved.

Former Vista University Vice Chancellor and business analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe commended the introduction of the monitoring and evaluation portfolio.

According to Professor Seepe the challenge that faced government was a lack of an "independent" structure to monitor performance within the public service.

"Service delivery challenges have always been there but the question has always been around accountability," he said.

He added that the restructuring of some of the key ministries and the introduction of the two portfolios in the presidency would ensure coordination and focus within government departments.

"Splitting some of the ministries, as it has been done in education will ensure that there is more focus on particular challenges and areas," Professor Seepe said.