Visa regime, spectrum release set to boost job creation

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Presidential Working Committee on the Jobs Summit has noted substantial progress in interventions that will improve the country’s economic stance and create much needed jobs.

These interventions include reforming and modernising South Africa’s visa regime, issuing water use licences, releasing broadband spectrum, saving jobs in distressed firms and improving the certainty of electricity supply.

These were among the updates provided to government, labour, business at the second monthly meeting of the Presidential Working Committee on the Jobs Summit held on Monday.

The meetings of the Presidential Working Committee are meant to develop specific interventions that will enable greater job creation in specific sectors and also provide detailed updates on a month-to-month basis on those interventions.

The Presidential Working Committee comprises senior leadership of the different National Economic Development and Labour Council constituencies.

The committee meets monthly to discuss transversal issues raised as impediments to faster growth and job creation, as well as the specifics of job retention and creation, assistance to distressed firms to stave off retrenchments, and training, among other interventions.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi reported that changes to South Africa’s visa regime to make the country more accessible for visitors, investors and people with skills that are critical to building the economy, were underway.

Home Affairs has lowered turnaround times for critical work skills visas which are now issued within four weeks in 88.5 % of applications.

Business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98 percent of applications.

In November, the department will embark on a pilot scheme for the issuing of e-visas, which applicants will be able to access online, eliminating the need for applicants to visit South African missions abroad.

The department has also located visa services within the offices of various investment facilitation agencies around the country.

In addition, visa requirements have been simplified for countries such as China and India, which are key markets for tourism to South Africa.

Recently, government also waived visas for travellers from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, New Zealand, Cuba, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.

The meeting also received a report from ICASA on the process for the release of high-demand broadband spectrum, which is expected to be concluded in the first quarter of the 2021 financial year.

At the meeting social partners urged the regulator to make every effort, within the legal prescripts, to fast-track the process of auctioning and allocating spectrum.

It was agreed that this process should be run alongside other work to reduce the cost of data.

The Working Committee noted that deadlines for the issuing of water use licences had been significantly shortened.

“Government is working on ensuring that these licences are issued within 60 days for agriculture, 80 to 95 days for infrastructure projects from state-owned enterprises and municipalities, and 120 days for mining. Consultation is also ongoing with business to ensure that the conditions attached to licences are not too onerous or costly,” the Committee noted.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan reported that significant progress has been made in addressing operational challenges at Eskom, with the result that no load shedding has taken place in the country in the last 200 days.

The Minister indicated that Eskom was reinforcing management skills at power stations by returning effective power station managers to positions from which they had been removed, and through the appointment of operational engineers in spite of financial constraints.

The Committee was informed that the Special Paper on Eskom and the roadmap to ensure its sustainability into the future was close to finalisation and would be announced shortly.

"Social partners emphasised that both the Special Paper on Eskom and the Integrated Resource Plan were necessary so that long-term investment decisions can be made.

"The meeting also received a report on progress towards the implementation of an export tax on scrap metal. It was agreed that this work should be concluded within the next four months,"the Committee noted.

The leaders of all social partners welcomed the progress that has been made, and endorsed the focus of the Presidential Working Committee on practical interventions that can be made within particular industries to promote growth and employment. -