Despite the perennial challenges of a constrained global and domestic economy, a tight fiscal environment, and a long drought season, the Eastern Cape economy has made a positive contribution towards creating employment and improving lives.
These is according to Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle who delivered the State of the Province Address on Friday.
The province’s employment drive was boosted by its two Industrial Development Zones (IDZs) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). Combined, the three entities attracted investments of above R30 billion, creating over 29 000 jobs during the 2018/19 financial year.
“These investments clearly demonstrate confidence in our economy,” said Masualle.
“These investments include foreign direct investment from a range of companies, including the Chinese motor vehicle manufacturing company BAIC, Goodyear South Africa, Yekani Manufacturing, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen and South African Breweries.”
Various road network improvement projects also contributed towards creating jobs and benefitting SMMEs in the province.
During the financial year, the province partnered with South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to rehabilitate the N10 to Alexandria, Peddie to East London, the R58 between Aliwal North, Lady Grey, Barkley East and Elliot, and the R63 between Bedford, Adelaide, King William’s Town and Komga.
“Many will testify to the improved condition of the R61 between Mthatha and Bizana which made the province a construction site. We have spent more than R850 million on access roads and bridges for increased access to schools, health institutions, tourism entities and agricultural facilities.
“As we speak, over 3 500 km of gravelled roads in the province were re-gravelled, while over 75 000 km of gravel roads were bladed. Furthermore, in partnership with the Department of Defence, five bridges in the Bawa village of the Mnquma Local Municipality were replaced,” he said.
Such road infrastructure work, he said, benefited over 100 SMMEs and created about 2 000 employment opportunities.
In his speech Masualle decried the downgrading of Mthatha Airport from a CAT 4 level airport to a CAT 3 level, saying the decision had affected the businesses and employment in the area.
“Since that fateful decision the provincial government responded with speed to fulfil the compliance requirements of the airport in line with SACAA [South African Civil Aviation Authority] regulations,” he said.
Masualle said the province was also able to create jobs in the energy sector and tourism sectors.
“In recognition of the crucial role of SMMEs in growing the economy, through the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, we have provided financial support to the tune of R578.2 million.
"Furthermore, through the Jobs Stimulus Fund, we disbursed R26.3 million, thus saving 2632 jobs.
"Further non-financial support was provided to cooperatives and SMMEs. Our progressive government policy of 30 day payment period has also been welcomed by the business community,” he said.
Masualle did, however, concede that there is still a lot of work required to monitor and ensure that it is effective and achieves its intended objectives of promoting business functionality and sustainability.
“Augmenting all the above efforts for job creation is the Expanded Public Works Programme, through which we created more than 430,000 temporal work opportunities, benefiting 61% women, 7% youth and 1% people with disability,” he said.
Since 2014, Masualle said, the province has prioritised agriculture which is regarded as a significant economic game changer. – SAnews.gov.za