Govt wants open debate on Rand

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cape Town - Government would like to engage in an open debate with trade unions and private-sector economists on how to make the Rand more competitive, says Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel.

Patel said Cabinet had agreed that the country needed a more competitive exchange rate and pointed out that the problem was that while a strong rand brought down the cost of imports, it raised the price of exports.

He said a number of countries had used different strategies to arrive at a more competitive exchange rate for their currency. While Brazil introduced a tax on capital flows and Chile used a series of "speed bumps" to slow down the entry and exit of capital, China had linked their currency to a predetermined rate.

Many Asian countries had also built up a supply of foreign exchange, which had helped to keep their currency in check.

Briefing the media on the progress made by the Economic Sectors and Employment cluster, Patel said 7 431 workers in the automotive sector had been placed on training programmes offered through the Manufacturing Seta (Merseta) as part of the government's training layoff scheme.

Training initiatives are being lead by the respective Sector Education Training Authority and businesses themselves, he said.

The focus is on computer training, numeracy and literacy, as well as on company-specific training that could put employees in good stead when the economy returned to growth.

The Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor pointed out several other economic initiatives.

While the Department of Labour had assisted 2 251 small enterprises in employment support, the Mining Industry Growth, Development and Employment Task Team, set up at the end of 2007, had helped to save a number of jobs through initiatives such as the introduction of new technologies and shorter working weeks, energy reduction measures, among others.

Pandor said the national government was assisting provinces to develop growth strategies which will help create more jobs.