President's economic interventions a step in the right direction

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcements on measures to expand exports and fix State-owned entities are a step in the right direction. 

Davies said the package of interventions the President announced in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) will go a long way in boosting economic growth. 

“I think the President gave a very comprehensive account… and direction of the movement of the economy. The Investment Summit that was held last year was a very good boost and on the basis of that, there has also been a lot of [work done to address] a number of challenges in the economy. [The President] identified that in the medium-term, our growth will have to be focused on high-level evaluated exports… 

“About a third of our total exports go to the African continent and two thirds of that are evaluated products. I think this is the direction we need to be moving in as we have a big boost in confidence that we must use to our advantage,” Davies said. 

In his speech, the President announced bold plans to focus on significantly expanding the small business incubation programme, given the key role that small businesses play in stimulating economic activity and employment. 

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu welcomed the announcement. 

“The issue of business incubation is very important. I am happy that the President spoke about it because it is through that process that innovators, start-ups, people who want to start their own businesses and people who have bright ideas… can be in an environment where they can get their plans to grow,” she said. 

With the President dedicating a chunk of his speech to addressing the importance of decidedly fixing Eskom and making bold decisions to ensure that State-owned entities are self-sufficient, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said it was important to implement energy efficient measures to ensure that South Africa attracts foreign investment. 

“The President in his State of the Nation Address underlines the important point of how the economy can grow if South Africans work together. From an energy perspective, the line of march is that we need to ensure that the cost of electricity goes down so that we can attract investment into the South African economy,” Radebe said. 

Before he left the National Assembly, former President Kgalema Motlanthe told journalists after the speech that he was glad President Ramaphosa dwelt on fixing the economy, in his address. 

NHI a universal imperative 

Meanwhile, the President’s announcement that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is in its final stages and is set to head to Parliament has been welcomed by Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. 

“When I was in Davos with the President [for WEF], this was a central issue. A decision was taken that in September, this matter must be taken to the United Nations high-level meeting to be discussed because the world needs universal health coverage. 

“This is healthcare coverage where people are treated according to their needs and not in terms of the depth of their pockets,” said the Minister.  

According to Motsoaledi, the successful roll-out of the NHI will have a domino effect on various economic issues. 

“It is not only about health, it is about the economy. No country in the world can grow when people are sick and don’t have access to adequate treatment.” 

To drive his point home, Motsoaledi made the example of the Sierra Leone economy, which took a knock after nine months of the Ebola outbreak.

NPA investigative directorate to tackle corruption 

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said he was particularly encouraged by the announcement that the NPA will receive its own investigating directorate that will, in the main, deal with corruption cases. 

“The President has confirmed the investigating directorate at the NPA, which means I have an IOU that I can take to the Finance Minister and say I need  money to establish this directorate, which will be focusing on the volume of complex criminal investigations and prosecutions on all forms of corruption,” said Masutha. 

In making the announcement, the President said the idea of the directorate is borne from the issues emerging from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State capture and other commissions. 

To this end, President Ramaphosa said he and the new National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, who took over the reins at the NPA on February 1, agreed that there is an urgent need to establish the directorate. –