Cape Town - The per capita disposable income of households has increased by 43% and total employment has increased by more than 3.5m since 1994, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday during the presidency’s budget vote in parliament.
Economic transformation will be a priority for the government this financial year, he said.
The South African economy has expanded by 83% over the past 19 years and the national income per capita increased by 40% from R27 500 in 1993 to R38 500 in 2012.
The recipients of social grants, however, increased from 2.5 million people in 1994 to about 16 million to date.
Zuma regards the financial sector as one of the key strengths of the South African economy. He is pleased that it remains robust and well-regulated and enabled the country to weather the 2009 financial crisis.
“Currently, the economy continues to grow, but at a much slower pace than previously expected. This presents challenges for job creation and poverty reduction,” said Zuma.
Data released last month showed that real GDP growth slowed to 0.9% in the first quarter of 2013.
He pointed out that the Eurozone, which is still South Africa's largest trading partner, is still steeped in recession.
Growth in some major emerging markets has also weakened somewhat, affecting the demand and price for South Africa’s major commodity exports.
The rand has become increasingly vulnerable to the global financial situation, including a strong US dollar environment.
“There is very little we can do about the global economic crisis, but there are things we can do domestically which can assist to improve the resilience of our economy,” he said.
“We now have a plan to tackle our socio-economic development challenge, the National Development Plan. What we are suggesting is that people must offer constructive inputs on the plan and not just debate for the sake of it.”
As far as infrastructure development is concerned, Zuma wants to see to the removal of bottlenecks.
“Much of the infrastructure expenditure of R827bn over the medium term will be on projects that are already in progress and for which tenders have already been issued,” he said.
He admitted that weaknesses in planning and capacity, however, continue to delay the implementation of some projects.
Other issues he mentioned were the crucial role of state owned entities in economic development and that the fight against corruption must continue.
“During this difficult economic climate, I would like to once again implore all of us to put our country first in everything we do,” he implored.
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