Jobs, education at centre stage

Phumulo Masualle
Phumulo Masualle

Premier outlines plans to transform impoverished province for benefit of all

JOBS, the economy and education took centre stage yesterday as Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle outlined his plans to transform the impoverished province into a thriving one which creates opportunities for all citizens.

He said the sluggish economy, coupled with global economic challenges, made it difficult for the province to create jobs. Instead, it was losing jobs.

This was also highlighted in the fourth-quarter labour force statistics released this week – for the period between October and December last year – which showed that unemployment grew from 28.2% in the third quarter to 28.4% in the forth quarter.

“The unemployment rate has grown faster than the economic growth. Mostly affected by this phenomenon are women and the youth,” Masualle said.

“In response to this, a provincial economic development strategy has been developed, based on six economic sectors in which the province has a comparative advantage, namely agricultural development, oceans economy, tourism, renewable energy, light manufacturing and the automotive industry.”

The government would continue pinning its hopes on the Eastern Cape’s two industrial development zones – Coega and East London – to be catalysts for economic growth, he said.

“We are determined to ensure that as part of our enablers [to growing the economy] we continue to strive to deliver sound infrastructure, sustainable water and energy sources, as well as efficient movement of goods and services.

“By the end of the current financial year, we shall have established the provincial planning commission.

“The task of the commission will be to close the gaps in the provincial development plan, develop a clear implementation plan as well as serving as an advisory body on the key pillars of the development plan.”

Special attention will be given to youth development.

The departments of Health and Education will set aside 25% of their infrastructure maintenance budgets to target youth maintenance initiatives.

Also, the government will set up a special fund of at least R20-million for young people who are already working in the agriculture sector.

This will be used for training, to fund hydroponics and aquaculture training as well as agro-processing initiatives.

“Our plans, our dreams and our wishes hinge on our economy performing optimally,” Masualle said.

The education system needed a lot of attention, he said.

“The fact that the five [worst] under-performing districts in the country are all in the Eastern Cape, clearly demonstrates that we are still not out of the woods yet.

“We are confident that the appointment of a permanent head of department [of education], the continuing support from the office of the premier and provincial treasury as well as support from the Department of Basic Education, will turn the tide.”

Masualle also spoke strongly about holding senior officials accountable through performance evaluations and scorecards.

DA leader in Bhisho Bobby Stevenson said the speech had no game-changer announcements.

He said education consumed nearly half of the provincial budget, but there were no extra measures to deal with its challenges.

“I would expect bringing back inspectors to schools, competency tests for principals and performance contracts,” Stevenson said.

EFF MPL Dinga Peter said the speech only highlighted problems and did not provide solutions.

UDM MPL Max Mhltathi said job creation could not be dependent on IDZs only, but the government should rather offer incentives to reopen old factories.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said: “We are disappointed that the development of the waterfront in the Port of Port Elizabeth was not mentioned. We call on the provincial government to lobby Transnet and the National Department of Public Enterprises to expedite the move of the tank farm and manganese ore facility from the Port of Port Elizabeth to Coega.”

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