The Premier quite rightly devoted the bulk of his State of the Province Address to the economy. The South African economy is at its lowest point since President Jacob Zuma took office in 2009 and Gauteng has not escaped the effects. The numbers speak for themselves: in the last five years more than 1.6 million South Africans have become unemployed.
The focus on creating jobs and work opportunities for all South Africans is a priority for all of us. Without jobs and decent work, millions of South Africans remain trapped in poverty with very little prospect of a better life.
The Premier has told us about the billions of Rand that are planned to be spent on the economic development of Gauteng, the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are going to be created and the massive rollout of infrastructure that will take place. The plans are impressive Hon Premier but we also know that the ANC has just celebrated its 103rd anniversary. The plans are reminiscent of the candles on the 103rd birthday cake. Each breath to blow out those candles is just another wish on the Premier’s list.
Much of the plans and the expenditure are based on current and future investment by the private sector. Much of the work will take place in the municipalities. We have been told very little about how the Province is actually involved and what its contribution will be. We know there are many in the ANC who would rather “own” the economy instead of facilitating its growth through clean and effective government. To quote Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”.
There is also very little evidence that the so-called private sector investors will not be the same politically connected cronies all over again. Can the Premier guarantee that there will be an open tender process for these projects that allows everyone regardless of their political connections an equal opportunity to bid?
The Premier alludes to the role of municipalities as members of the stakeholder circle that will bring about “radical” transformation. No mention is made of the poor financial status of Gauteng municipalities or any plans to support and address their serious shortcomings before throwing more money at incompetent mayors. Economic transformation cannot happen where municipal service delivery is inefficient and completely compromised by corruption and wasteful expenditure.
Current projects undertaken by the Department of Economic Development are started with the best of intentions but we cannot keep throwing money at projects when they fail time and time again. Let’s take the Mohlakeng hub for example. This project cannot expand any further until an MOU has been signed by the Department of Economic Development, the Randfontein municipality and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP). What is causing the delay? The very same GEP, an entity of the Department.
This is unacceptable Hon Premier and Hon MEC Maile especially given the circumstances of high unemployment and unrest that prevail in Mohlakeng. Is it too much to believe that the Department and its entities would priorotise the speedy development of this hub? If we cannot get such a small detail right, how are we going to manage billions of Rand of investment? Equally the small budget that the Department of Economic Development has should be used to maximum effect to make every cent it spends count.
The Premier announced ambitious plans for agriculture but the rollout for infrastructure does not even mention agriculture. We maintain that the current GDARD budget together with the budget from Economic Development is not enough to finance the agriculture promises made by the Premier. Why would the Province want to establish more Agri-parks when the current ones are a spectacular failure? Our biggest unemployment figures are for the youth but why does the Premier thinks the “youth on the periphery” would be interested in farming?
The Premier is absolutely right in recognising the need for a stable energy supply and the current threat to water security. There is no possibility of reindustrialisation and the revitalization of Gauteng’s economy without these two components.
Clearly this Province cannot rely on the bulk of our electricity coming from Eskom. Foreign investment will not come to Gauteng if we cannot guarantee a secure energy supply. We welcome the Premier’s plans for alternative energy sources such as solar panels on government buildings and changing to LED globes but we suggest also making sure street lights are not burning during the day, motion sensitive lights are used in toilets and that air-conditioning units are regularly maintained. Hail storms
The Premier has made no mention of using Independent Power Producers. He needs to pressurise his comrades in National government to move on the enabling legislation. A veil of secrecy currently surrounds exactly who these producers are and how much energy they are capable of producing. Eskom’s monopoly needs to be broken.
Finding solutions to the acid mine drainage problem cannot be overemphasized but the current treatment of polluted water results in salt as a by-product. The only way to get rid of the salt is through reverse osmosis, an extremely costly process. An oversupply of salt is not only going to destroy our drinking water but it is also going to contaminate the fertile farmlands which provide food security for our province. Urgent attention needs to be paid to this threat.
Economic growth is dependent on good policy decisions and active economic leadership. The Premier’s address was big on plans, short on detail and the economy of Gauteng cannot wait another year to get those details
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