NELSON Mandela Bay needs to market itself aggressively to stake its claim in the South African and global economy, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told academics and industry representatives yesterday.
He was speaking at the launch of the fifth edition of the Coega Development Corporation’s academic journal, Perspectives, at the CDC head office.
Coega, as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), would soon enter a new era of change, he said, when investors could pay up to half of the corporate tax rate, get export benefits as well as apply for the youth wage subsidy applicable to the workforce of all ages within the SEZ only.
However, Gordhan said the region needed to be aggressive by offering the necessary skills and capabilities that would support big investments in the SEZ.
“We need to be more competitive. We are very complacent in South Africa, as we call ourselves ‘Mandela’s children’ and just sit back while our counterparts in the enterprise community are dynamic and aggressive. We need to ask ourselves: how dynamic are we?
“The South African community needs to do a lot more to demonstrate our hunger for investment … A lot more needs to be done. We need to get our act together and move faster.”
Gordhan believes the Eastern Cape mirrors the situation in the rest of the country, where a big divide exists between those with wealth and prosperity and those that live in degrading poverty.
To overcome this divide, Gordhan suggested a booming society and economy, with effective private sector and state institution involvement.
Poor stewardship of public finances, a lack of development of parts of the economy and the global recession could be blamed for why the country was still lagging behind its peers, Gordhan said.
“We are not beyond the recession. We still carry the after-effects with us. There will be a crisis again and we need to be prepared for this.”
Gordhan said instead of “pointing fingers at one another we needed to work together” to make South Africa a success.
Instead of being “smug cynics”, the country needed to mobilise its resources to fulfil the ambitions of the National Development Plan. The NDP offered a clear plan that could be implemented and aligned to the 2014 budget.
“The ANC manifesto addresses exactly where we want to take the country in the next five years and how this fits into the NDP. It is not just ideas – there is money to do this.
“Opposition parties are living a life of fiction and fantasy,” Gordhan said, referring to opposition parties’ campaigns to create more jobs and stop corruption.
The minister admitted we “need to fight the disease of greed”.
During a question and answer session, Gordhan said corruption needed to be dealt with, both inside the government and in the private sector. “More people need to learn tough lessons,” he said.
A lot more could also be done to grow small businesses, which were often “eaten up by the big guys”. SMMEs operated in a very narrow space and to have full economic transformation, new opportunities needed to be created for them.
“There is a low level of entrepreneurship in the country. We need more self-starters who are not just sitting and waiting for the government,” he said.
The CDC’s Perspectives journal offered an opportunity to connect intellectuals, strategists and practitioners and was a valuable initiative to influence thinking in the region, Gordhan said.
Mayor Ben Fihla said Nelson Mandela Bay had an important role to play in achieving the development objectives of the Eastern Cape and country, and the journal offered a sharing of ideas to promote economic opportunities.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Development Studies Department head ProfessorRichard Haines said the journal encompassed more than just the IDZ.
It was about optimising the resources beyond the Eastern Cape to make a difference in what had become known as the “Cinderella” province.
“In order for the IDZ to make a greater impact, we need to think beyond its borders, to rethink and stimulate economic development,” Haines said. – Cindy Preller