Zuma speech ‘ambitious’
Analysts described President Jacob Zuma’s address as “very ambitious”, and said it lacked detail on implementation. According to political analyst, Steven Friedman, it was very worrying that President Jacob Zuma made no mention of plans to improve local government following many complaints by South Africans. Friedman said this gap in Zuma’s speech raised eyebrows because Zuma had declared 2011 as a year of turning around local government.
“There was no single word on how government plans to improve services. That is key and ignoring it wont solve the problem. Most people don’t think that was done (last year),” said Friedman. He welcomed the focus on infrastructure, saying it was expected as it was what the country needed to create jobs. Zuma put the economy at the centre of his fourth state-of-the-nation address on Thursday night.
He told Parliament the government saw its role as guiding the economy to grow faster and announced steps to stimulate mining, integrate rail and road infrastructure and help exporters. This year will see a massive infrastructure drive, with Limpopo — which has been recently placed under administration — mentioned first as the focus of infrastructure development.
Friedman said apart from infrastructure investment, the president was “repeating what we already know”, particularly on economic transformation. Zuma spoke of government’s plan to amend the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowernment Act. He admitted that the land redistribution process was “slow and tedious” and acknowledged that the willing buyer-willing seller option had not been the best way to address this question. Only eight percent of land, of the 30 percent target by 2014, had been distributed.
Another analyst, Aubrey Matshiqi of the Centre for Policy Studies, described Zuma’s address as “very ambitious”, and said it lacked detail on implementation. “The targets are not completely related to an agenda for 12 months. It means we’ll have to judge the ANC government in terms of promises made in the speech and how much progress is made in the short to medium term,” said Matshiqi.
He was struck by what Zuma said on land redistribution and was waiting to see what the government was doing to change direction in that regard. “We are mourning 100 years of the deposition of black people from their land. It would be interesting to see what specific measures will be put in place to accelerate land restitution,” he said.
Matshiqi said Zuma reiterated what former President Thabo Mbeki had said about the willing buyer-willing seller approach being a blunt weapon. Matshinqi said it was interesting that Zuma made no mention on international relations. However, should the economic plans announced in the speech materialise, South Africa would in the medium term become a haven of economic growth and job creation, he said.
Should plans on infrastructure development materialise, they would depend on a partnership between government, the public sector and civil society. Matshiqi said It would also depend on the performance of the global economy. “One weakness is the absence of a pact between our social partners like labour, the private sector and the state,” said Matshiqi. “With the absence of these, all plans will come to naught.”
Matshiqi hoped Zuma and his successors would in future focus their attention on this “special pact”. Matshiqi said Zuma was correct to avoid any mention of nationalisation but spoke of beneficiation in the mining sector, unlike his two cabinet members, National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel and Mining Minister Susan Shabangu who made pronouncements on the issue earlier this week.
Analyst from the Institute of Democracy, Judith February, said some of the critical issues Zuma did not emphasise were corruption and tenderpreneurship, considering the number of tenders that would be rolled out as a result of this big infrastructure programme. February also raised the issue of the budget, saying Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would have to give an indication in his budget speech.
Political commentator, Susan Booysen, said she expected more detail from Zuma’s speech. “It was a typical type of talking, assuring people that government was working on it but not much said on implementation,” she said. Booysen said it was going to be quite a few years before South Africa saw any impact from the infrastructure investment plan. There probably was not a short-term solution to problems in the country. “Desperate people will be looking around how they can survive and bring food on the table this year and next year,” she said. SAP
Job creation ‘ignored’
President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation address did not focus on the core way to create jobs, an economist said on Thursday. “I think we are never going to create jobs at the scale that is needed if we do not have… a small business strategy, and small business hardly got a mention,” said Chris Hart, chief strategist at Investment Solutions.
“I think there is a such a high degree of sincerity and belief in what they are attempting to do in government… but it [the state-of-the-nation address] skirts the core issue completely.” The only known way to create jobs on a mass scale was through small business, he said. “And the only known way to capitalise small business is to improve household savings… and this was not mentioned.”
Hart said Zuma had spoken of huge investments in infrastructure, but did not mention savings and investment, which was needed capitalise it. He said the speech had been hostile towards the private sector in a number of areas. “There was a whole array of stakeholders left out or targeted with hostility… in particular the private sector.”
The focus of the address was “very introspective” in seeing the government as having the ability to solve the country’s problems without partnering with the private sector. Some of the areas Hart saw as hostile to business included the introduction of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, changes to land reform in Zuma’s criticism of the willing buyer, willing seller principle and the intention to criminalise fronting.
He welcomed the reduction in port changes. “Government is starting to recognise that investment rollout by just hiking prices to pay for it is an obstacle… this is a very positive development.” Zuma did not address one of the main obstacles to doing business in South Africa — the huge regulatory burden.
“There are huge costs imposed on doing business in South Africa that are not imposed anywhere else,” Hart said. “And the regulatory onion that is being constructed is going to see more, with labour broking, land reform, gender balance, mining regulations in the pipeline.” However, the speech was upbeat and optimistic compared to previous years, Hart said.
Meanwhile, Buanews reports that Zuma’s announcement that more jobs were created in the economy last year has been widely welcomed. During the State of the Nation Address in Parliament, Zuma said figures released this week had shown that the rate of unemployment had fallen from 25% to 23.9% as a result of new jobs. During 2011, a total of 365 000 people were employed, the country’s best performance since the recession of 2008.
“Of course we welcome the fact that the initiatives have paid off and that jobs are continuing to be created and we are recovering even though we are still below the levels of 2008 – it’s good progress,” Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told BuaNews. Government declared 2011 as the year of job creation, with Zuma earlier saying that all the new jobs were being created in the formal sector of the economy in sectors such as mining, transport, community services and trade to name a few.
“I think the most exciting part about the speech tonight is the infrastructure programme that the President unveiled. We think it will go a long way in arresting the issue of unemployment,” said Davies. “We are going to have to work very expeditiously to keep up the momentum because the world economy is also in trouble… I think if we get this infrastructure programme going in the manner that it has been outlined, there is a very good chance of creating even more jobs even though the world economy will be against us.”
Public Works Minister Thembelani Nxesi, whose department plays a crucial role in government’s wider employment initiatives, said it was pleasing that government was playing a leading role in job creation. “We think that Public Works will continue to play a very big role in ensuring that we don’t reverse the employment opportunities that are emerging. There’s a lot of pressure as the President has outlined but all of us need to make sure that we get the infrastructure going and we will see the jobs we want,” Nxesi said.
Public Works planned to double the scale of projects in the next three years mainly with regard to roads construction, building of bridges and other infrastructure, he said. As part of the contribution to the income of the poor, the target for one million work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme was achieved in 2008. “In the absence of the private sector, we think that Public Works is going to be crucial in both addressing our aging infrastructure and creating jobs; but what is going to be important is to ensure that we are not only creating these jobs but make sure that they are also sustainable.”
General Secretary of trade union federation, Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi also applauded the inroads made in employment creation but said more needed to be done. “We welcome the fact that new jobs were created last year and plans are there to continue in that direction but we believe that the President should have said something about the issue of labour brokers – a practice we have been saying must be banned,” he said. The fact that billions of rands will be pumped into an infrastructure programme will assist in the speedy recovery of the jobs that were lost in 2009 and 2010, he added. SAPA/BUANEWS
‘Zuma honest on problems’
Trade unions praised President Jacob Zuma on Thursday for what they described as his honesty and frankness on the problems South Africa faced. “It was good to hear the president admitting that municipal service delivery is still not on a desirable level,” Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said. However, Solidarity was disappointed that Zuma did not provide solutions.
“With regard to crime, skills shortages and the pressure that is put on the rights of minorities in South Africa, President Zuma did not bring forward any significant new solutions,” said Hermann. The union also welcomed Zuma’s plan to invest in big infrastructure projects, but was worried about the emphasis on empowerment instead of development through education.
On a different note, the Afrikaner civil rights group said Zuma’s address lacked focus on quality education. “The president did not accept adequate responsibility for the education crisis in the country and did not announce significant measures to address the problem,” deputy CEO Alana Bailey said in a statement. “The president mentioned that the matric pass rate is increasing, but this does not reassure either.”
She said experts had doubts about the 2011 matriculants’ levels of competency, and about 80 percent of schools were dysfunctional. “The annual national assessment of 2011 revealed that 70 percent of the country’s learners could not achieve the expected levels of literacy and numeracy,” said Bailey. “Attendance alone is insufficient to ensure that the attendees of today will be the competitive and successful workforce of tomorrow.” Bailey said Zuma handled land redistribution with a “disappointing lack of accountability”, blaming its failure on farmers. “It is an invalid assumption that fails to take the State’s bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption into account,” she said.
The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) said Zuma’s address was “inspiring”. “President JG Zuma… [was] frank about current challenges, especially the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequalities,” the union said in a statement. Fawu welcomed job creation being the focus of the massive infrastructure development plan. “We still wish to see much more focused and deeper plans on the creation of green jobs, and the agro-processing sector becoming one of the job drivers.”
The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) on Thursday questioned where the additional money for the infrastructure development plan. “Infrastructure investment in our roads, rail, ports and water will unblock the rich mineral resources of platinum, palladium, chrome and other minerals to increase South Africa’s mining potential and beneficiation programme,” Fedusa secretary general Dennis George said in a statement. “The president did however not mention where the funds for this investment will come from and what time frame will be allocated. Infrastructure investment was a critical component of strong economic growth.”
George said Fedusa was also concerned that job creation appeared to have taken a back seat. Hardly any emphasis was placed on education in Zuma’s address, he said. Fedusa also welcomed R20 billion set aside in incentives earmarked to support new industrial projects and manufacturing.
Last modified on Friday, 10 February 2012