Business response to Zuma speech mixed

Feb 15 2013 07:18

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation speech was disappointing and lacked substance, the Cape Chamber of Commerce said on Thursday.

"A backslapping speech with little substance. The Cape Chamber of Commerce is, on the whole, disappointed by the state of the nation address delivered by the president this evening," said its executive manager Bronwen Kausch.

"The presidency gave no clear policy direction. While alluding to very important topics, all the speech did was increase the frustration of business that the national policy vacuum continues."

Kausch did commend Zuma's call for harsher action against those who participated in strikes which resulted in damage to property.

"After repeated calls from business... we are heartened that, in these instances, we have been heard."

Business Unity SA (Busa) welcomed Zuma's speech.

"We also welcome infrastructure projects that have begun to gain traction, where the president reiterated to fast-track many of the projects that the Presidential Infrastructural Coordinating Committee had announced," said Busa CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni.

Busa also praised the government's commitment to pay small, micro and medium enterprises within 30 days.

Majokweni said the business community was expecting to see how the National Development Plan would be financed, as this would be a challenging task in finding workable solutions to unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Scant on detail

Meanwhile an analyst said President Zuma's state-of-the-nation address covered a wide variety of social issues, but was scant on detail.

"The president covered a wide range of ground, but perhaps he lost a bit of focus," said Prof Roger Southall of the University of the Witwatersrand's sociology department.

He said Zuma mentioned the importance of small business and government providing support for such entities, but gave "absolutely no details" of how this might take place.

Southall said Zuma's establishment of a Presidential Remuneration Commission to review the conditions of service for public servants was of interest.

Zuma said education needed to be an essential service, but this would not deprive teachers of their right to strike.

Southall said further details of the implications of this were needed.

He said Zuma's remarks that the government would abandon the "willing-buyer, willing-seller" principle would be welcomed by many.

"I think quite a lot will be made of... (the move towards) just and equitable compensation for land, in line with the Constitution."

What was meant by "just and equitable compensation" had to be seen, Southall said.

"Analysts say the 'willing-buyer, willing-seller' principle has not been a particular obstacle.

"There has been plenty of land up for sale, but government has been slow to respond to this."

He acknowledged that it was a "tough job" to resolve uncertainty about the land issue.

Southall said it was promising that Zuma had spoken about renewable energy, but said that more money should be allocated to realising green initiatives.

"The amount of money spent on renewable energy (R47bn) when put against infrastructure spending (R860bn) is rather small, and I think that is an area of government activity which really needs more attention."

Southall said Zuma's attention on the issue of corruption was apt, because corruption "is really the Achilles' heel of this government". 

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