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No more sweet talk, Mr President

Feb 09 2011 22:48 Sapa

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Johannesburg - As President Jacob Zuma fine-tunes his third state of the nation address to be delivered at 19:00 on Thursday evening, there is no shortage of advice from other quarters as to what he should say.

Instead of "tinkering around the edges" of the massive failure in the labour market, Zuma should commit his government to five simple new ideas in 2011, the Democratic Alliance's Tim Harris suggested on Wednesday.

"For once the president needs to ignore the narrow, vested interests of his alliance partners and do the right thing by announcing broad and deep reforms of our labour market."

Zuma should put his full political weight behind the youth wage subsidy he announced this time last year, announce drastic reform of the wage bargaining arrangements, the immediate withdrawal of the four proposed labour bills, request parliament to undertake an urgent review of existing labour laws to relieve small businesses of the more onerous provisions, and intervene in the "economic policy standoff developing in the cabinet".

"A cabinet at odds with itself will not be able to preside effectively over the creation of five million jobs," Harris said.

That jobs will take centre stage in Zuma's address was confirmed by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday.

"Employment creation is going to be a priority," he told journalists in Johannesburg.

While the content of the state of the nation address was the president's prerogative, he anticipated jobs would feature strongly.

"It will be a priority because it is a priority," Mantashe said.

Harris' parliamentary leader Athol Trollip urged Zuma to take decisive action on the country's problems.

"This is no time for promises too sweeping for their progress to be measured. Nor is it the time for superfluous rhetoric and gesture.

"In the past, President Zuma has used vague concepts - like that of job opportunity - to make meaningless promises, and to claim tenuous successes."

Mixed signals

Zuma should use the opportunity to affect real and meaningful change.

"That change is achievable and involves the implementation of a series of actionable policy measures, the adoption of which would not only improve the quality of life for all South Africans, but would also address some of the most glaring problems that have hampered service delivery and good governance under successive ANC administrations," he said.

The Independent Democrats (ID) agreed the focus of Zuma's address needed to be on the economy and the urgent need to create millions of jobs.

"The ID expects the president to clarify the current mixed signals emanating from the ruling alliance and outline precisely what aspects of the new economic growth path will be implemented.

"The president must give the nation an inspiring vision with practical actions that will be taken to ensure that the... most pressing issues are addressed simultaneously, namely poverty and unemployment," it said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party-aligned SA Democratic Students Movement (Sadesmo) urged Zuma to deal with service delivery and provision of basic needs.

Flowery rhetoric

The president should make concrete pronouncements on how his government would address crime, poverty, unemployment, education, corruption and healthcare, Sadesmo spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said.

"After two years in office, we seriously are not interested in flowery rhetoric any longer."

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for clarity in policy direction and implementation on various issues.

These included clarity on the government's programmes to support and develop the small business sector, progress on programmes to reduce red tape for business, and new strategies on addressing corruption.

Others were measures to address skills shortages and improve the education system, implementation of programmes to address the employment problem and youth unemployment in particular, and further clarity on land reform, the green economy strategy, and the current policy thinking on the national health insurance.
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