Plan to cushion economic crisis for SA

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cape Town - Government, business, labour and communities are to "pull every lever" to lessen the impact of the global economic crisis on the people of South Africa, says Eskom Chairperson Bobby Godsell.

Speaking in Cape Town on Thursday following a meeting of the Presidential Joint Economic Working Group, Mr Godsell said: "What we are trying to do immediately is save jobs, homes and businesses and keep the economy as healthy as possible."

He described the current global economic crisis as the worst in at least a generation.

The Working Group is set to release its Executive Committee Report later on Thursday which will detail actions planned by the country to respond to the economic crisis as well as outline concrete proposals.

President Kgalema Motlanthe had earlier commissioned a task team to come up with proposals for government assistance to sectors crumbling under the recessionary environment globally, consists of representatives from the Presidency, business, communities and organised labour.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Mandisi Mpahlwa, said at the briefing that the group had come up with a collective, workable response to cushion South Africa from the impact of the crisis.

He said the interventions would pay particular attention to limiting the burden of the economic crisis on the poor as well as strengthening the capacity of the economy to grow and create decent jobs.

To this end the Expanded Public Works Programme would be upscaled. The report would also include more detail on this.

SA Clothing and Textile Union's Ebrahim Patel said that not all the solutions in the report would require money but that they were looking at different ways for business and labour to interact.

The programme was described by Mr Patel as "a bold one which has a sense of urgency as well as a consensus by all four parties involved on how to do it".

He further said it was a comprehensive package that would build on the strengths of many elements already in place. "Unlike America we are not starting from a blank sheet."

Existing initiatives would be co-ordinated to work better, said Mr Patel.

Among the many proposals, is a commitment to lessen retrenchments as far as possible and to look at ways of how this can be done such as strengthening the CCMA and training those who have been laid off to be absorbed into the labour force at a later stage.

There is also the suggestion of utilising SETAs to educate more people so that when the economy turns positive again, they will be prepared.

The report will also launch the National Jobs Initiative which will include the efforts of many departments such as Department of Trade and Industry, Labour, Public Works, Mineral and Energy Affairs together with other financial institutions.

The Working Group said the course of action would have specific goals and targets as well as timeframes.

The crisis was such that it necessitated the use of joint resources and it was a programme that would look well ahead of the picture as the economic crisis was not one that would be over in six or nine months, they said.