Sacci, Busa welcome SONA

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pretoria – The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) and Business Unity South Africa (Busa) have welcomed government’s focus on the economy and the country’s energy challenge, among other things.

President Jacob Zuma delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in a second term of governance in Parliament on Tuesday night.

Economy to take centre stage

In his address, the President said the economy will take centre stage while the mining sector is also set to receive attention, among others.

“The Sacci welcomes the tentative proposals for economic policy development presented by President Zuma in the SONA. The proposals certainly contain the correct sentiments that the economy must take centre stage and obstacles to economic growth be removed,” Sacci chief executive officer Neren Rau said.

The President’s announcements were also welcomed by Busa.

“Busa welcomes the President’s unequivocal assertion that economic growth is essential for job creation and socio-economic development. We also welcome the clear indication from the President that business and government must work together to ensure economic growth, as well as his statement that government must remove obstacles to economic growth.”

In the first quarter of 2014 the country was hit by low growth, with Stats SA announcing that the seasonally adjusted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at market prices had slumped at an annualised rate of 0.6%.

“The economy takes centre stage in this programme. It remains our strong belief that the most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty is the creation of decent work, and that creating work requires faster economic growth.

“We have set a growth target of 5% by 2019. To achieve this, we will embark on various measures and interventions to jump-start the economy,” said the President in his address.

Energy challenges

Among other issues, the President spoke about the country’s energy constraints.

He said the country needs to respond decisively to its energy constraints in order to create a conducive environment for growth.

“To prepare the institutional capacity, we are in the process of converting the National Nuclear and Energy Executive Coordinating Committee of Cabinet, into the Energy Security Cabinet Sub-committee. The sub-committee will be responsible for the oversight, coordination and direction of activities for the energy sector,” he said.

“Sacci welcomes the focus on this challenge and the emphasis on a radical transformation to develop a sustainable energy mix that includes green alternatives, as well as the assurance to consider shale-gas and nuclear energy,” said Rau on Wednesday.

Industrial action

Among other issues covered in the SONA is that of industrial action.

“Sacci welcomes the acknowledgement that industrial action is plagued with violence and open-ended timelines. It is necessary that government drive a review of the labour relations framework engaging with the social partners,” said Rau.

President Zuma said given the impact of the labour relations environment on the economy, it was critical that social partners meet to deliberate on the violent nature and the duration of the strikes.

He said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will step in and lead social talks. Additionally, an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities has been established under the leadership of the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe.

President Zuma said that government would play its part in the implementation of the landmark Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry entered into by labour, business and government last year - a process that was led by former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. President Zuma would take over the process himself.

“We are very happy that the President and Deputy President will lead these initiatives respectively,” said Busa.

Efforts to develop small business

Business also welcomed efforts to develop small businesses, nurturing the culture of entrepreneurship and working towards implementing youth employment initiatives such as the youth employment incentive.

Both Sacci and Busa expressed their pleasure at seeing the President touching on “urgent” concerns relating to the business community.

“Sacci is pleased that President Zuma touched on several urgent concerns to the business community,” said Rau.

“Busa is generally happy with the SONA albeit broad and high-level. We look forward to engaging government in identifying the critical priorities for economic growth that leads to socioeconomic development. Business stands ready to engage,” said Busa. -