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#Ramatracker: The Ramaphosa report card - Hard work, but little to show for it

Oct 15 2019 07:00
Ferial Haffajee

The government will soon finalise a single consolidated growth strategy for the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko, has told Fin24.

"Government is seized with issues relating to Eskom and expects to table a paper which plots the energy utility’s path to reform within the next couple of weeks," said Diko in response to emailed questions two weeks ago. 

Both the Eskom paper and a growth strategy are expected by the end of October when the medium-term budget policy statement, or mini-budget, is passed and ahead of Ramaphosa’s second annual investment conference from November 5 to 7.

In the #RamaTracker series, Fin24 follows up on how the Ramaphosa administration is doing at implementing promises made during the president's State of the Nation addresses.While the impacts are not being felt in economically tangible ways, there is progress on short-term goals. (see graphic).   

Short-term progress

In February, Ramaphosa set a number of short-term goals. There is a chief restructuring officer for Eskom in place – Freeman Nomvalo – but there is now no CEO, as Phakamani Hadebe unexpectedly quit in July 2019. 

The restructuring of Eskom has proven harder than anticipated but the lights did not go out through the toughest patch of the year – the winter months, when demand is high. 

The greatest gain the Presidency has made is through Roelf Meyer’s work on the Public-Private Growth Initiative, where meetings between chief executives and directors-general of government departments have been held to overcome growth hurdles. This work could see R840bn invested in 43 projects over the next five years; government’s pledge is to remove the impediment in the way of these over the same period. Government is now focused on 14 industries across seven sectors of the economy.

These are in the following sectors: clothing and textiles; chemicals and plastics; renewable energies; steel and metals fabrication. 

The travel and the tourism industry is fairly happy with movement on visa reform on the scrapping of unaccompanied minors laws, the introduction of visa-free status to four growth markets and to double tourist arrivals by introducing e-visas.

"The tourism department has done an analysis of key markets like China, India and the African continent to increase the numbers, supported by aggressive marketing. Initial steps in visa reforms have been warmly received and this is indicated by the forward bookings from Ghana, New Zealand and the UAE," Diko has told Fin24.

There is political progress on Ramaphosa’ big green #SONA19pledge which is to "be at the forefront of green growth, low-carbon industrialisation" but coal interests are highly influential both at Eskom and in the mining industry so securing this is a work in progress. Diko says there is now a renewable energy roadmap, a gas master plan and a waste economy strategy on the table.

Ramatracker

Ramaphosa has also finalised what the land reform programme should look like with the report from the Presidential Advisory Panel on land reform and agriculture, but organised agriculture issued a minority report which criticised the majority report for not adequately enshrining property security.  The most significant work has been done on easing access to the economy for investors, both domestic and foreign, through rapidly improving the turnaround times for permits and licences – South Africa jumped seven positions in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index released last week. Diko says work is underway to ensure SA climbs levels in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report. "Work is underway to improve key indicators such as starting a business, registering property, dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and trading across borders."

Taking a long-term view

In his 2019 state of the nation address, Ramaphosa set out his governing plan. It is built on the legs of reform, a capable state and a social wage of reliable quality basic services. 

If you take a long-term view of how Ramaphosa has done in his first six months, it’s not great. Economic transformation and job creation seem like goals that move into further distance as each set of economic indices show deterioration rather than progress. 

Education, skills and health are all receiving intense thought and work, but, again, the indices like reading levels, matric passes and health indicators reveal that progress is thin on the ground even after 18 months of Ramaphosa being in the driving seat. 

On Ramaphosa’s international relations policy aim of "A better Africa and world", this position took a tumble in September when news of violence targeted at migrant and migrant trader communities spread like wildfire across the continent aided by the penetration of social media and Internet access.  The pledge that violent crime would be halved over the long-term also seems a difficult promise, with the crime statistics release of September 2019 which showed violent crime is leaving a thicker and thicker red line across the land.

"Refreshing leadership which sets the tone" – Sipho Pityana

What is different? The most vital asset the Presidency offers is an ear. It is much more open to business than previous administrations, said Business Unity SA president Sipho Pityana at the Harambee youth employment accelerator Solutions Exchange last week.

"There is a refreshing leadership which sets the tone. There is a desire to make the social partnership work," he said, adding: "Having been on both sides of the wall (he was previously a DG in government), with President Cyril Ramaphosa, you have an attitude of ‘I want to hear what you think’. 

Business will lose the opportunity (to tell the President) at its own peril’." 

ferial haffajee  |  ramaphosa  |  sona
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