Govt makes efforts to shield poor, vulnerable

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cape Town - Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor says efforts are being made to shield the poor and vulnerable sections of society from the current global economic meltdown.

Speaking during the Economic Sectors and Employment cluster Programme of Action (PoA) media briefing on Tuesday, Pandor conceded that the main focus of government in the face of the current crisis had been to minimise the impact on the country's productive capacity as well as job losses.

She pointed to the training layoff scheme for workers at risk of retrenchment as part of the attempts to reduce the level of retrenchments of workers by companies as a result of the recession. A National Jobs Fund, announced by President Jacob Zuma in August, will be used in this regard to finance the scheme at a cost of R2.4 billion.

To address the high levels of illegal imports and customs fraud that has led to many thousands of job losses, the capacity of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has been strengthened.

Discussions have been facilitated at sector level between business and labour, and measures to address their immediate problems have been identified.

The minister said these include support for distressed companies in the automotive sector, clothing and textiles sector as well as increased incentives for the manufacture of capital equipment, transport equipment and fabricated metal products linked to South Africa's infrastructure development programme.

Pandor said around R6.1 billion has been set aside by the Industrial Development Corporation over the next two years as a bid to address the challenges of access to credit and working capital for firms in distress due to crisis.

She also revealed that R993 million was approved for 15 companies. This is up by more than 50 percent compared to the R485 million which was approved for 14 companies in the 2008/2009 financial year.

Much of the clusters work has also focused on addressing food price pressures on consumers at a time of falling family-incomes. In this regard, the Competition Commission has stepped up investigations into and prosecution of firms in the food supply chain with Sasol, Tiger Brands, Foodcorp and Lancewood among others.

The National Debt Mediation Association, initiated by business, continues to assist indebted consumer, she said.