Province intent on implementing economic plan
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the administration’s economic stimulus and recovery plan, detailing workable plans to rejuvenate our economy to respond to the immediate and long-term challenges, I was reminded of how former US president Barack Obama did the same for his country early in his administration.
While Obama was responding to the rivulets of the 2008 economic recession caused by reckless behaviour of the private sector, Ramaphosa is responding to the potent results of corruption caused by our own comrades through what is now called state capture.
Those of us elected to serve in the ANC and deployed to government have a moral and constitutional duty to work with the president in stimulating our economy to attract investment and create jobs.
The president’s plan is the ongoing work we committed to do at the ANC’s 54th national conference in December 2017 by igniting economic activity, restoring investor confidence, preventing further job losses, creating new jobs and addressing some urgent challenges that affect the conditions faced by vulnerable South Africans.
At the heart of this plan, as Ramaphosa puts it, “is the reprioritisation of public sector spending towards activities that have the greatest impact on economic growth, domestic demand and job creation, with a particular emphasis on township and rural economies, women and youth”.
Where we are deployed, all of us must implement growthenhancing economic reforms, reprioritise public spending to support job creation and support the establishment of an infrastructure fund.
When we do this, issues like addressing urgent and pressing matters in education and health, and investing in municipal social infrastructure improvement, will be the outcomes of our work.
We must deem this part of the ongoing process by the government to grow the economy for the benefit of our people.
Delivering his 2016 economic progress speech in Greece, Obama said lowering carbon emissions, creating jobs, investing in built infrastructure, increasing tax compliance, with tax cuts for poor households, reducing poverty and narrowing inequality pointed to the direction that should be taken to build the inclusive economy required for democracy to deliver the prosperity the people needed.
Faced with growing unemployment, poverty, a sluggish economy and very low local private investment, the Eastern Cape has no choice but to support the economic stimulus plan.
For us in this province – the Eastern Cape – we welcome this in the context of pushing the realisation of long-pronounced strategic investments that include the Mthombo oil refinery at Coega, the Umzimvubu water project, commercialising agriculture and expanding tourism.
The growing public sector investment appetite in sectors like agriculture, public sector construction, the automotive sector and the inspiring investment commitments by multinational companies flowing from Ramaphosa’s work prove that when we work together as sectors we can grow the economy.
The ongoing implementation of the provincial economic development strategy, investment promotion plan and the agriculture economic transformation strategy by the provincial government are part of our programmes to change the face of the provincial economy.
The R10bn investment by Mercedes Benz into the province, the takeover of the General Motors operations by Isuzu and ongoing government investment in the province confirm that our province can grow to the benefit of everyone, especially the unemployed, poor, and small, medium and large businesses.
All these investments must be distributed equally to benefit all provinces, which must use delegated responsibilities in local councils and provinces to make the environment conducive to do business and attract investment.
All of us must use the authority we have to ensure that public sector procurement, including that of the infrastructure key in the economic stimulus plan, benefits small businesses and that they will be paid within 30 days without delays.
Unemployed people include those who used to own small businesses and who could not pay their staff and provide for their families because their invoices were not paid or they did not get tenders.
They lost a lot because of that.
Unemployed people include former workers of the small businesses who left because salaries were not coming in as a result of inexplicable delays caused by our officials in municipalities, government departments and state-owned enterprises.
For our economy to grow, this must come to an end.
Ongoing awarding of tenders to the same companies by government officials contributes to the sluggish growth.
We cannot give the same companies tenders and exclude many businesses.
That is wrong and it must stop now.
We have many skilled and experienced people who can construct roads, bridges, houses, hospitals and everything.
We must empower them to meet the criteria we need so that they too benefit from the public procurement.
Reprioritising public sector spending means we must be transparent and fair, and share the opportunities.
It does not mean we must give tenders and contracts to a select few.
The private sector too must spread its procurement opportunities so that all businesses benefit.
We must learn from the successes of Obama’s economic stimulus plan of lowering poverty, creating more jobs, increasing public sector infrastructure spending, lowering carbon emissions while growing the economy, and increasing access to healthcare and education.
The provincial government will have to increasingly work with national departments and their entities in the province to benefit from available funding.
● Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane is the chair of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, and finance, economic development, environment affairs and tourism MEC.