Economy, jobs worry Zuma

Economy, jobs worry Zuma

2014-06-18 09:48

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma signalled concern for the economy and stressed the need to tackle energy and other infrastructure deficits as he delivered his seventh State of the Nation address on Tuesday.

Speaking amid concern for his health after a spell in hospital, Zuma said economic setbacks had left South Africans feeling the sting of poverty.

Job creation was the surest answer but this required measures to speed up spluttering economic growth, he said.

"We have set a growth target of 5% by 2019. To achieve this, we will embark on various measures and interventions to jump-start the economy.

"Change will not come about without some far-reaching intervention," Zuma said, before recommitting to infrastructure spending of R847m despite expected higher borrowing costs in the wake of the country's credit rating downgrade.

"The slow growth has been caused in part by the global economic slowdown and secondly by domestic conditions, such as the prolonged and at times violent strikes, and also the shortage of energy."

Energy needs

Zuma said government would push ahead with nuclear energy generation and shale gas exploration, both strongly contested, but respect environmental laws.

"We need to respond decisively to the country's energy constraints in order to create a conducive environment for growth," he said.

"Nuclear has the possibility of generating well over 9 000 megawatts, while shale gas is recognised as a game changer for our economy. We will pursue the shale gas option within the framework of our good environmental laws."

In a low-key mid-winter opening, Zuma appeared to show the strain of a tough election campaign marked by the Nkandla controversy and acknowledged the damage the five-month mining strike had done to the economy.

He said he would personally become involved in trying to stabilise the embattled sector.

"Given the impact of the untenable labour relations environment on the economy, it is critical for social partners to meet and deliberate on the violent nature and duration of the strikes."

Mining industry focus

The president said he would take over guardianship of the framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry, forged under the leadership of then deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe last year, and see that it implements a plan to improve services to mining towns.

"The focus is the mining areas of Matlosana, Emalahleni, Sekhukhune, Lephalale, West Rand, and Matjhabeng."

But he warned mining houses that government would monitor their progress on improving living conditions at mines, along the targets set out in the Mining Charter.

"We urge the companies to meet the 2014 deadline for these targets and extend this right to dignity to mineworkers."

He reiterated a pledge made earlier this year that the state's expanded public works programme would provide six million job opportunities by 2019, and said the local government-based community work programme would be expanded to account for a million of these.

Job creation

Government would help boost youth employment by increasing the number of interns in all state departments, Zuma said. He pointed to the success of the youth employment tax incentive in giving 133 000 people in the private sector work in five months.

"It remains our strong belief that the most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty is the creation of decent work, and that creating work requires faster economic growth."

Along with unemployment and poverty, the country needed to tackle gaping income inequalities persisting 20 years after the end of apartheid.

To this end, Zuma said government would deliberate a national minimum wage and mandated Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to lead talks on the subject within the ambit of Nedlac.

As he did in his inaugurations speech, Zuma pledged government's commitment to the National Development Plan, and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

He said the state's economic rescue plans included promoting local procurement by making sure the state bought three-quarters of goods and services from local suppliers.

"We will utilise the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing of buses, Transnet's R50bn locomotive contracts and Prasa's passenger rail projects, among others, to promote local content and boost growth."

Acknowledgement of failings

Energy security would mean scrutinising Eskom's role, accelerating the fraught construction of the Medupi coal station, and ensuring the country had a sustainable mix of energy sources.

Zuma acknowledged the failings of local government and listed several municipalities where government would intervene to resolve infrastructure and delivery problems, often with the help of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

New Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said Zuma had missed the opportunity to announce bold steps, notably on energy production.

"The president had the opportunity to bring strong ideas, some very bold steps, and I didn't see that forthcoming," he said.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said the speech was mediocre and promised nothing new.

"There is nothing exciting except a blowing of hot air and a repetition of the things that we have heard before," said Malema, who attended the opening in a red boiler suit and gum boots.

ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize said Zuma addressed the main problems facing the country.

"He spoke about getting involved to stabilise the labour front, and on getting more investments," said Mkhize.

"He spoke of rebuilding local government where there is corruption. The speech has taken care of all of this."

  • Jenny Anderson - 2014-06-18 10:41

    Jobs should worry you zuma, the job/labour is very unfriendly its only good for you and your votes you want to get

  • Joe Black - 2014-06-18 11:05

    Of course he will never acknowledge that he did not know or did not care that the policies of his party, especially after he took the presidency, have a big part to play in our current predicament. This is why I will never respect those who thought people like MBeki who were pro-business (hellooo... business is the economy) needed to be replaced. I mean dammit people must really start considering the realities of modern life.

  • Ygivadamn - 2014-06-18 12:05

    1994: Jobs for all 2009: 5 million jobs by 2013 2013: 1 million jobs "opportunities" by 2016 2014: 6 million jobs "opportunities" by 2019 (referring to street sweepers, car guards, waiters at government functions) Well non-of these are sustainable and descent. GET RID OF STATE DEPENDENCY DISGUISED AS SOCIAL WELFARE, LET THE PEOPLE DO IT FOR THEMSELVES.....MR PRESIDENT PLEASE FREE OUR PEOPLE FREE THE MARKETS

  • Craig Thom - 2014-06-18 12:10

    His only worried that his trough won't be full

  • Jenny Anderson - 2014-06-18 13:37

    Okay zuma its time to put your money where your mouth is .STOP THIS MINING STRIKE. OH I forgot you have NO BACKBONE

  • Steven Swart - 2014-06-18 14:26

    The only concern this idiot has is to finish Nkandla before funds run out.

  • Pooty Tag Sapataw - 2014-06-18 14:40

    We need to set 1000 year goal like the Chinese did.Hard work with minimum wage,no workers right,harsh working condition,no medical aid,and i promise you in 1000 years south africa will become one of the richest countries in the world... HA A MAN CAN DREAM.....

  • Debbie Brain551 - 2014-06-18 15:40

    Eskom doesn't have a job worry. When there are profits to take on your internet.. they cut off rain or snow if your lines aren't being left for the next wire thief come and mess up your pavement with bulldozers and gee,sorry your wire have been replaced in hours this time.. the ratepayer has to spend on fixing the "repair" all over the pavement,at least two days work So much work and so little to do for those dear boys.(are they mannequins?) 1. Eskom seems not to intend fixing preventative measures while wire thieves can easily spoil the business.Is this the invention worth the bonus?.. 2.Send the complaint and it can't be understood.

  • sxp - 2014-06-18 15:58

    He he he, how the hell can we believe him? He and his party is the cause of most of this misery, all supported by 70% of very naive voters.

  • Craig Drysdale - 2014-06-18 17:51

    "What mw worry". Zuma = Alfred E Newman. Your only worry is if your cronies are going to deliver the same kickbacks as last year. Thief

  • Jaco Nel - 2014-06-18 23:09

    Zuma, ANC worries nation

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