Five urgent tasks for government announced

Accelerating inclusive economic growth and improving the education system are among some of the urgent tasks that President Cyril Ramaphosa has set as government’s work for the year ahead.

The President made this announcement when he delivered his State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly on Thursday evening.

He said the five steps, which will underpin all that government does in the year ahead, will include:

- Accelerating inclusive economic growth and creating jobs;

- Improving the education system and developing the skills that are needed;

- Improving the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor;

- Intensifying the fight against corruption and state capture; and

- The need to strengthen the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.

“While there is a broad range of critical work being done across government, this evening I want to address the five most urgent tasks at this moment in our history. These are tasks that will underpin everything that we do this year.

“Over the past year, we have focused our efforts on accelerating inclusive growth, significantly increasing levels of investment and putting in place measures to create more jobs,” he said.

The President said this after the economy was faced by headwinds last year, with Statistics South Africa announcing a technical recession.

In response, the President announced an economic stimulus and recovery plan that re-directed public funding to areas with the greatest potential for growth and job creation.

“Our approach was not to spend our way out of our economic troubles, but to set the economy on a path of recovery.

“We introduced a range of measures to ignite economic activity, restore investor confidence, support employment and address the urgent challenges that affect the lives of vulnerable members of our society.

“We are pleased to report that significant progress has been made in restoring policy certainty on mining regulation and the visa regime, crafting the path towards mobile spectrum allocation, and reviewing port, rail and electricity prices,” he said.

Bold steps to expand exports

President Ramaphosa said to stimulate growth in the economy and to build more businesses and employ more people, there is a need for South Africa to find new and larger markets for its goods and services.

“We will therefore be focusing greater attention on expanding exports.

“In line with the Jobs Summit commitments, we will focus on the export of manufactured goods and trade in services such as business process outsourcing and the remote delivery of medical services.

“We will also be looking at establishing special economic zones that are dedicated to producing specific types of products, such as clothing and textiles, for example,” he said.

The President said to improve the competitiveness of South Africa’s exports, government will complete the studies that have begun on reducing the costs of electricity, trade, communications, transport and other costs.

Government will focus on raising the sophistication of exports.

“The agreement on the establishment of African Continental Free Trade Area offers great opportunities to place South Africa on a path of investment-led trade, and to work with other African countries to develop their own industrial capacity.

“The agreement will see the creation of a market of over a billion people with a combined GDP of approximately $3.3 trillion.

“Alongside a focus on exports, we will pursue measures to increase local demand through, among other things, increasing the proportion of local goods and services procured both by government and the private sector,” he said.

Increasing local demand and reducing the consumption of imports is important because it increases the opportunities for producers within South Africa to serve a growing market.

“Through this we will intensify the “buy South Africa” programme,” he said.

Billions on investments already being implemented

The President said following last year’s investment conference, some of the investments were already being implemented.

“To prove that our investment conference was not just a talk shop where empty promises were made, as we speak, projects to the value of R187 billion are being implemented, and projects worth another R26 billion are in pre-implementation phase.

“Drawing on the valuable lessons we’ve learnt, through a more focused effort, and through the improvements we’re making in the business environment, we aim to raise even more investment this year,” he said.

The inaugural investment conference in October last year provided great impetus to our drive to mobilise R1.2 trillion in investment over five years, the President said.

The Investment Conference attracted around R300 billion in investment pledges from South African and international companies.

The President said there was also a significant increase in foreign direct investment last year.

“In 2017, we recorded an inflow of foreign direct investment amounting to R17 billion. Official data shows that just in the first three quarters of 2018, there was an inflow of R70 billion.

“This is a phenomenal achievement compared to the low level of investment in the previous years,” he said.

He said the Presidential investment envoys – Trevor Manuel, Mcebisi Jonas, Phumzile Langeni and Jacko Maree – as well as InvestSA are closely monitoring the status of the investments announced at the Investment Conference. – SAnews.gov.za

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