Nomkhita Mona | Committing to a future of investment
The month of February marks a crucial time for our nation and, by extension, our metro.
Tomorrow (Thursday) we will hear President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver his state of the nation address (Sona) at the opening of parliament – a presentation that will largely determine our country’s economic trajectory for the year.
Based on the priorities he sets out, the national budget speech later in February will indicate how funds are allocated to these key projects and delivery areas.
The theme of 2019’s Sona is “Following up on our commitments to the people: Making your future work better”.
In an election year, this is a particularly apt theme, but it is our hope as the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber that the president – and, following in his stead, finance minister Tito Mboweni – will indeed make good on the promise of bettering the country’s investment climate and economic future.
When Mboweni spoke during his maiden midterm budget speech in October 2018, the business chamber was encouraged by his overall commitment to bolstering investor confidence and, in doing so, building an environment in which businesses can grow sustainably.
It is our hope that this commitment remains as strong in the upcoming budget speech.
We recognise that, to grow the economy and create job opportunities for the unemployed masses, we need much more investment in the productive sectors of the economy.
As part of its strategic direction, the business chamber has identified and continues to promote the development of sectors that are crucial to fostering sustainable economic growth in Nelson Mandela Bay.
These include automotive, agro-processing, light manufacturing, maritime, oil and gas, the creative industry and tourism – with the move towards Industry 4.0 affecting these, and other, sectors.
To this end, we would like to see investment promotion in these areas included in the government’s priorities, both at national and local level.
In line with the efforts to bring foreign investment to our shores, we need to see clear plans and timelines for the government’s interventions at troubled state-owned entities, including Eskom.
As a nation we must know more about how these entities and their operations will be structured, managed and funded in future.
Our government cannot afford to direct funds needed to promote economic growth towards bailing out these institutions, if there are no decisive strategies to deal with the problems in the long term.
We hope to hear more about the state’s plans to bolster SME development, including details around minister Lindiwe Zulu’s national strategy for reducing the red tape that is hampering the success and sustainability of small and medium businesses.
The business chamber has been hard at work to promote the ease of doing business, both through our in-house help desk and our collaboration with the metro towards establishing a one-stop shop for investors. We have also written to the minister to offer our support for this initiative by her department.
For the sake of fostering economic growth that benefits all our communities, the government must also invest in public infrastructure and skills development.
The latter should be tailored in line with the labour market needs of the future, as our industries continue to advance into the digital space.
Our citizens should therefore be equipped with skills that will ensure their employment in the long term.
Our interest was piqued by minister Derek Hanekom’s announcement early in January around a strategy to develop cruise tourism in 2019.
As we believe tourism is an invaluable sector in Nelson Mandela Bay, we hope the government will offer sufficient financial support to this initiative. In the Bay, these efforts would be maximised by the waterfront development planned for the city, pending the removal of manganese facilities from the port of Port Elizabeth planned for 2023
We urge the government to assist in expediting these processes by Transnet in order to boost our tourism sector.
The business community needs to know more about the carbon tax that is expected to be introduced later in 2019 and how it will affect their respective industries. We also need certainty around any proposed changes to the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy.
In addition, the current trajectory of state spending must be curtailed and used more productively towards encouraging economic growth.
The country’s deficit is currently at an unsustainable level and higher public debt would increase the risk of credit ratings downgrades, which would in turn negatively impact investor confidence.
As the business chamber, we have seen first-hand the value of our triple-helix model of collaborating with government and academia, as well as the quadruple-helix model involving civil society in decisionmaking processes.
We would encourage the government to include the private sector in the planning around issues that affect business directly.
We believe this collaboration would go a long way towards promoting the ease of doing business and furthering sustainable economic growth – both in our Bay and beyond...