Tuesday 26 November 2013
Letter from the president
Investment in the ANC is an investment in democracy and the future of the country
We are closing the year, and are approaching 2014, which is not only an election year, but also a celebration of the founding of our democratic state. We will mark 20 years of freedom with great confidence, because our country is a much better place now than it was 20 years ago, because of the hard work of the ANC and all our people, including the business community.We have a good story to tell on all fronts, at social, economic and political levels. We also have a good story to tell with regards to international relations as we have scored major achievements there too as a nation. At an economic level, the South African economy has expanded by 83 per cent over the past 19 years. All studies also indicate that the incomes and living standards of our people have improved. National income per capita has increased from R27 500 in 1993 to R38 500 in 2012 – an increase of 40 per cent.
Disposable income per capita of households has increased by 43 per cent. Indeed life is much better than it was 19 years ago. Total employment has also increased by more than 3.5 million since 1994. The latest survey of employment conducted by StatsSA shows that we have created just over one million new jobs since the adoption of the New Growth Plan and have now surpassed the previous highest employment level, with 14 million people now employed. The level of unemployment is still high, but it is good that some progress is being made.
We come from a difficult period economically because of the global economic meltdown which has refused to go away since 2008/2009. Our first step then in 2009, was to stabilise the economy and get the economy back into growth. By March 2010, GDP began to stabilize. Today, it is 10% higher than it was when this Administration came into office – an increase of almost R1 trillion in nominal terms – in the middle of the global economic crisis.
To further boost growth and jobs, this administration has invested heavily in infrastructure and skills development. We have an ambitious national infrastructure plan, and are investing about R200 billion a year in the construction of social and economic infrastructure. These include roads, power stations, dams, information and communication technologies, rail rolling stock to hospitals, universities and schools.
I have spent the past few weeks visiting various provinces to unveil infrastructure projects that have been completed. We have been to Mpumalanga to open Grootvlei power station, to Durban to open the Bridge City Road and Rail link project and to Port Elizabeth to unveil automotive wagons that will safely transport new motor vehicles to the market.
We have been to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape to unveil electricity projects and the refurbished airport to name a few. We have launched the Saldanha Bay IDZ in the Western Cape which will unlock growth and job opportunities in that region. We have also opened the Spring Grove Dam in Mooi River in kwaZulu-Natal and will soon open De Hoop Dam in Sekhukhune, Limpopo.
We have also invested time in promoting our mining sector. In October I opened a new De Beers diamond mine in Limpopo and tomorrow we will be visiting Hotazel town in the Northern Cape to open the Stanley Nkosi Sinter Mine owned by Kalagadi Manganese Resources.
Other major projects that we are excited about is the building of two brand new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape and 12 new Further Education and Training Colleges. Student numbers in FET colleges have increased greatly and we are now working with the business sector and organised labour to improve the quality of training and the connection between learning and work.
We need the business community to support us by absorbing these young people for internship and experiential training. We signed a youth employment accord with business labour and the community sector in April this year, and urge business to support its implementation.
Industrialisation has been another focus of the administration. Levels of industrial funding are sharply up, with the IDC disbursing R16 billion in industrial funding in this past 12 months alone. To promote local jobs, we intensively promote the local manufacture and assembly of trains, buses and taxis.
In promoting economic growth and investments, we also invest in fighting corruption and malpractices not only in government but the private sector as well. We have taken action against market abuse or corruption in the construction sector in particular, and also in food, fertilisers and telecommunications.
The ANC government continues to prioritise Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action. The ownership of the economy is far from transformed, as illustrated by low black ownership figures on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, among others. We are also far from transforming the management and control of the economy as well, as illustrated by the figures released by the Employment Equity Commission each year.
This month I have held two important and very informative consultative meetings with black business leaders. I have gained insight into what we still need to do to boost the transformation of the economy. They have informed me that other than macro-economic issues, we also need to deal with misperceptions and stereotyping which stifles the growth of black business.
This includes the practice of depicting all black professionals and businesspeople as inherently corrupt and as requiring perpetual scrutiny or investigation. As a result, black businesspersons are no longer obtaining support they should be getting from their government as even Ministers avoid meeting with them for fear of being viewed to be in a â€œcorrupt’’ relationship, even through harmless consultative meetings. This cannot be allowed to continue.
We cannot allow a whole sector of business to work under a cloud in their country in such an unfair manner. This matter needs to be discussed openly and dealt with. Another handicap they reminded me about is the failure of government to pay suppliers on time. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency and the National Treasury were assigned to assist us in managing and correcting this anomaly. The government cannot participate in destroying small business. Our job is to provide support and an environment for the growth of small business.
Both meetings underscored the need for government to provide more support to small business and to make it easier to provide funding for small businesses and to black business which has been marginalized for years. We value such inputs as they assist us to improve the support we provide.
I will continue to meet with groupings of business so that we get a good sense of what we should do right to boost inclusive growth. At a social level, we continue with measures to alleviate poverty. As a result we have significantly reduced people living in absolute poverty, due to measures such as social grants especially for children, older persons and persons with disability. The grants are one of our most effective poverty alleviation mechanisms.
We are investing in our children and their education. They are after all, our most important national treasure. Eight million children do not pay school fees, and also receive nutritious meals in school. Government also pays subsidies for children from poor households attending Early Childhood Development Centres.
All these measures help us to prepare a population of children who will perform better at school and up to higher education level. As you are aware the ANC government has done well on in other social areas as well such as health and other basic services. On health, our biggest success story is the manner in which our HIV and AIDS intervention has increased life expectancy and also dramatically reduced mother to child transmission of the HIV virus. This is a remarkable achievement for the country. These are not just the achievements of government alone, but of the nation as a whole.
We continue to prioritise Africa. Trade with the rest of the continent has grown significantly and with my colleagues on the continent, we are involved in the process of forming a free trade area involving 26 African countries with a population of 600 million people. We are part of BRICS and the G20 and use these platforms to advance the African agenda, recognising that what is good for Africa is good for South Africa.
We have achieved a lot in the past 19 years. We still have a lot to do in ensuring that all our people to have water, electricity, good health and education, housing and all basic amenities. It is for this reason that we developed the National Development Plan, to assist us to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
The NDP does not belong to government alone. It belongs to all South Africans, and all South Africans have a role to play in implementing it. The NDP makes the fundamental point, with which we are all familiar, that we must address unemployment. For as long as so many South Africans remain unemployed, we will not be able to tackle poverty or make a meaningful, sustainable difference in people’s lives.
The NDP places specific emphasis on the growth of an economy that can create jobs. It is an economy that has to grow at a far greater rate than is currently the case, and it needs to be able to absorb the unemployed. A particular challenge is that of youth unemployment. Young people are among the most likely to be out of work. That is why we are looking at mechanisms to encourage employers to employ young people, and to do so in a way that does not displace older workers or erode the rights and working conditions of workers.
It is in respect of this part of the NDP that we hope to see the private sector play a significant role. We can expect to see significant growth and the creation of work opportunities in the coming years. These are companies that are both committed to building the nation and also to being successful businesses that contribute to the development of our economy. It is precisely these qualities that we need across the broader business community.
We need companies that are constantly striving to find new markets, become more efficient and innovative, and develop new capabilities among their employees. We should therefore harness that patriotic spirit and move together in building a better South Africa. Some companies are already participating actively in education, building schools and providing much needed libraries, laboratories and other necessities.
On the other hand, companies have a deep reservoir of skills, experience and capacity that could be put to use to mentor educators and learners, provide guidance on careers and future study, and improve the managerial and leadership capabilities within schools. I urge you to continue providing such support as you are investing in the future of the country, and in the implementation of the NDP.
Our mining sector has gone through serious difficulties in recent times. We have as government decided to play an active role in stabilizing the sector and we are making progress. In this regard, I want to commend business for its participation in the Progressive Business Forum mining dialogue. It created an opportunity for the delegates to engage directly with the ANC, so as to create a sustainable and productive mining sector that generates and maintains much-needed jobs for our people, as set out in the NDP.
As we end the year, we thank you sincerely for ongoing support in various ways. We are heading towards elections next year and will need your support more. We reiterate that an investment in the ANC is an investment in democracy and the future of the country. We look forward to working with you in the New Year and beyond.
I thank you.
This is an edited extract of the address by ANC President Comrade Jacob Zuma to the Progressive Business Forum Presidential Gala dinner