We must all help to move the economy forward

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

By Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe

When viewed in isolation, the results on unemployment in the country released by Statistics South Africa - of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the third quarter of 2018 - make for disappointing reading. By any measure, our unemployment remains too high, and this is a serious concern to the government. However, certain key interventions and a number of others in the past year, have placed the country on a new path towards economic growth and job creation.

The Youth Employment Service, Jobs Summit, economic stimulus recovery plan and Investment Conference are part of the broader short and long-term initiatives to reignite the economy. It is also clear that the government cannot do it alone, and that all sectors of society are needed to move South Africa forward.

The recent Jobs Summit and Investment Conference not only delivered tangible investment commitments, but also cemented the relationship between the government, business, labour and civil society. 

Our new compact places South Africa first. The government will work to create an enabling environment so business can flourish, while also working to ensure our policies advance all of society, particularly the most vulnerable.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s maiden State of the Nation address in February, the government has been working with our social partners to remove obstacles to investment, promote inclusive growth and build a more prosperous society.  All parties in our new compact have agreed to move beyond the rhetoric and posturing that regularly hinders progress.

What our nation now needs is a firm commitment by all sides to build a better tomorrow, and the government is determined to create a framework for sustainable progress. 

On Friday, September 21, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government’s plan to recover and stimulate the South African economy. The government is implementing a range of measures towards a new path of economic growth, employment creation and socio-economic transformation. Decisive steps are being taken, including rebuilding investor confidence, ending corruption and state capture, restoring good governance and strengthening critical public institutions.

We have also moved to remove impediments to growth. The visa regulations are being amended to boost tourism and attract highly skilled foreigners. There is now also certainty in the mining industry with the finalisation of the mining charter, which aims to revitalise the industry and provide certainty to investors, while charting a sustainable path towards a transformed and inclusive industry. 

Of course we are aware that talk without action means nothing, and that South Africans are crying out for meaningful change which will bring economic growth and jobs.  Both these priorities were given a massive boost by the Jobs Summit and the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference. 

These two landmark events have completely changed our economic landscape and have laid the foundation for a lasting compact between the government and our partners.

At the Jobs Summit, the government, labour, business and the community sector agreed on concrete interventions to boost employment. It’s estimated that these interventions will create an additional 275,000 direct jobs a year. 

The Investment Conference generated announcements of investments to the tune of R290 billion. This adds to the pledges of over R400 billion that were received during the investment drive by the special envoys and from various countries during state visits.

This marks the beginning of a new narrative on investment in South Africa. It heralds a new dawn where we will work towards activities that have the greatest impact on economic growth, domestic demand and job creation, particularly for township and rural economies, women and youth. 

In the past few months much has been said about land reform in South Africa.  Certain groups and individuals have sought to use this debate to stoke fear and discontent.  However, our position has always been that we support land restitution and redistribution which will redress the sins of the past by allowing access to the land in a way that grows the economy, ensures food security, and increases agricultural production.

The government remains committed to pursue a comprehensive approach to land and agrarian reform that ensures transformation, development and stability, while providing certainty to those who own land, to those who need land and to those who are considering investing in the economy. The approach reaffirms the constitutional protection of property rights, which, among others prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of property.

The past few months have shown that South Africa is now firmly on a path to growth and change.  Our country offers investors world-class infrastructure, exciting innovation, research and development capabilities and an established manufacturing base.

In the coming months and years we will continue working to ensure our economy grows faster, is more inclusive, accompanied by higher levels of employment creation, reduced inequality and the de-racialisation of the economy. We will focus on unlocking the potential of small, medium and micro enterprises, cooperatives, township, and rural enterprises.

Giving our youth hope at a better future is essential, and we are providing the necessary support to those who want to build careers as entrepreneurs through the Industrial Development Corporation, National Youth Development Agency and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency.

Ultimately we need an army of entrepreneurs who will produce new industries and create jobs. The government will support this drive by actively encouraging young people to start their own businesses and provide them with the tools to succeed. We must shake off the notion that we are a nation of job-seekers and strive to build a nation of entrepreneurs.

A thriving small business sector will lead to inclusive economic growth, higher levels of employment creation, reduced inequality and a more transformed economy.

However, we will never arrive at this new reality without everyone playing their part. Every sector has an important role in moving the economy forward.

*This article first appeared in the Pretoria News