KZN hosts economic symposium

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Durban - With economic growth in KwaZulu-Natal looking optimistic this year, the provincial government has reached out to private sector experts for their input to enhance this objective.

MEC for Finance, Ina Cronjé initiated the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Symposium on Friday at the Gateway Hotel which gave the provincial treasury a sense of what can be done to further stimulate economic growth.

The purpose of the symposium, attended by renowned economists and financial management strategists, was to discuss the current state of economic growth of KwaZulu-Natal.

The discussions also looked at creative ways of growing the economy to benefit all sectors of the society and help KZN become the most economically developed province in the country.

Addressing delegates, Cronjé said the recent global economic meltdown had contributed to the decline of many economies in the world.

"Despite this, the KwaZulu-Natal economy has seen a slight increase of economic growth of 1.6 percent in 2009 and 3.4 percent in 2011, but we can do more.

"In the agriculture sector, KwaZulu-Natal is supposed to improve immensely because of the favourable agricultural conditions. The 2012 economic growth seems cautiously optimistic with 3.5 percent in KwaZulu-Natal," Cronjé said.

Cronjé once again emphasised the importance of saving - the department has several financial literacy campaigns targeting several groups which provides education about saving.

"In South Africa, we consume more than we can afford. You go to any shopping mall, you see people spending and spending, and at the same shopping mall, you go to a bank, you check the savings queue, you find one or two people only.

"This is unlike many developed countries, with China being one of them who spend their energies building their economies and saving at the same time," said Cronjé.

Economists provided insight on many issues about brought context to the global economic situation in relation to South Africa.

They were unanimous in saying that KwaZulu-Natal was projecting a positive growth rate - however, much intervention was still needed to solve unemployment problem.

Mel Clark of Black Balance, an economic development and engineering consulting company, said the province needed the kind of growth of middle class based on entrepreneurship as this would help in the creation of employment and luring investment and risk taking.

"KwaZulu-Natal has a sizeable number of large corporates as well as numerous small companies, but not enough medium-sized companies that will help encourage investment," he said.

Clark added that the landscape of the provincial economy can only change when government undertakes strategic and targeted investment initiatives.

Investment Solutions Chief Economist Chris Hart said KwaZulu-Natal had the advantage of ports that serve the nation.

"What we need to bear in mind, as a weakness, is the lack of strong infrastructure links between KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and Mozambique and the province needs to do something to improve this situation," said Hart.

KwaZulu-Natal is on a good economic trajectory but in order to stimulate further growth, the province needs to consider spending more on infrastructure development.
A report from the symposium will be submitted to the Premier Zweli Mkhize.