In the coming weeks government will liaise with its social partners to finalise an economic recovery programme, with a strong focus on the safeguarding and creation of jobs.
In his weekly address to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the programme will consolidate the best proposals.
He said there was a firm commitment to a social compact to reconstruct the economy through a shared undertaking.
He acknowledged that despite government’s support measures, many companies are being forced to close amid declining economic activity, resulting in job losses.
South Africa’s unemployment rate of 30% is expected to soon increase, Ramaphosa warned.
“Since the onset of the pandemic in South Africa, our strategy has been to provide whatever support we can, within our constrained resources, to protect businesses and preserve jobs. Now we must move quickly towards a robust programme of reconstruction and recovery – and we must do so together. Building on the vast areas of common ground among the proposals from social partners, we now have to put in place a clear, focused and ambitious set of measures to not only restore our economy, but to set it on a new path of inclusive and sustainable growth,” said the President.
Some of the ideas under discussion include reliable energy, access to broadband spectrum, competitive ports and efficient transport.
Infrastructure development is also high on government’s plan for South Africa’s economic recovery.
“At the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium organised by the Presidency a few weeks ago, business and government were of one mind on a new methodology to develop an infrastructure pipeline and deliver on it. Investors from the multilateral development banks, development finance institutions and the private sector all showed a strong appetite to make the necessary investments to meet South Africa’s extensive and diverse infrastructure needs,” Ramaphosa said.
Government hopes to fast-track implementation of its economic recovery programme with its social partners, however, it admits that execution must be improved by seeking business, academic and civil society skills.
Ramaphosa also pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing government to pursue new growth opportunities, such as a green economy, with entrepreneurship in hybrid cars, fuel cells, battery storage and waste beneficiation.
Meanwhile, previously identified areas, such as the growth of small and medium enterprises and agriculture for food security, remain relevant and urgent, he said.
Despite the effect of the pandemic on economies, Ramaphosa says economic activity will pick up as the world adjusts to a global economy marked by Covid-19.
“By then, our initiatives to reform and improve the business environment will establish a firm platform for industries with high potential to flourish,” he said.
Public employment schemes are also on government’s radar, with the hopes of creating community value-add jobs in maintenance, care work and other services to ensure that people retain and develop skills and gives first time job seekers a chance for practical experience before entering the job market.
“Such jobs complement employment created by businesses as they start to recover and private investment returns,” said Ramaphosa.
Further, the activation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, held up as a result of the epidemic, is being lobbied for to expand trade on the continent.
Ramaphosa says social partners have put forward proposals to remove barriers on intra-African trade and added that strategies to promote local production must support the creation of regional value chains in Africa.
“We will do what we must to build an economy that is resilient and dynamic, that creates work and opportunity, and that meets the needs of all our people. We have all the ingredients for an economic recovery. Now let us work together to make it happen,” he urged.