Editorial: Look ahead of GM’s departure

It is now fairly certain that some 600 jobs are likely to go as General Motors prepares to leave South African shores for a second time.

These are awful numbers to contemplate in a metro where unemployment is higher than the national average.

A single job puts food on the table not only for the employed individual. Direct dependents rely on the income, too, as does the community at large where every rand spent helps keep the local economy ticking over.

The impact of a lost job, in other words, has a ripple effect. When several hundred are laid off, the fallout cuts much deeper.

Whatever the final attrition amounts to, it will be devastating for those families losing a breadwinner or a second household income.

But as we report today, the bigger picture extends beyond the factory floor and those who build the cars that GM sells.

An entire supplier network – from parts manufacturers to companies in the service industry – has undoubtedly been affected.

Equally, charities and nongovernmental organisations, who receive social investment funding, will be on tenterhooks following last Thursday’s announcement.

It remains to be seen how far Isuzu’s acquisition of the South African GM operations will make up for the American automotive firm’s exit.

What this event has shown is how vital it is for a modern-era municipality to diversify its investment sectors.

Much has been made of the Bay’s reliance on car manufacturing down the years.

Certainly, it has been a key employer of mass labour and will continue in this vein.

But with automation the word on everyone’s lips and the ever-present political and regulatory risks associated with the government’s subsidisation through the automotive production and development programme, a new approach becomes imperative.

The Bay will recover from GM’s departure in time. Our lesson is to fix our eyes ahead and avoid the temptation of the rearview mirror.

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