Govt, business upbeat on GDS achievements

27th August 2003

Government and business were upbeat yesterday on the "modest" achievements of June's Growth and Development Summit (GDS), saying the conference had helped lift investor confidence.

"Ultimately what the process has done is to instil greater confidence," Wendy Dobson, the head of strategic planning in the department of trade and industry, told MPs.

The summit had shown that the social partners had the maturity to come together to debate what was needed to create a climate for increased investment.

"It shows to investors that this is a country where the key economic parties are willing to work together, and we should not underestimate that," she said at a briefing to Parliament's trade and industry portfolio committee.

Representatives from government, business, labour and civil society met in Midrand in early June to sign an agreement aimed at lifting growth and creating jobs, following weeks of negotiations.

The outcome of the meeting, however, has not been well received by all observers, with the Democratic Alliance arguing that nothing concrete to help lift employment had come from the talks.

DA trade and industry spokesperson Mark Lowe said the GDS had been "a summit of good intentions", and that the only way to measure its achievements was through jobs.

The department had merely presented to the committee a "glossy overview", and should rather concentrate on "measurables" and how those responsible for implementation would be held to account, he said.

Raymond Parsons, the overall business convenor in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) - under whose auspices the GDS was held - said the only way to prove skeptics wrong was to deliver results, and not rhetoric.

The GDS had the potential to do that.

"Business is fully aware that there are many people and commentators who are sceptical about summits like the GDS.

The scepticism stems mainly not from the modesty of our achievements, but from the enormity of expectations.

"Expectations must remain realistic," he said.

Parsons said it was important now for all involved to accelerate implementation of the agreements reached, so the momentum was not lost.

The summit should be seen as a process, and not an event, with its outcomes would continue to evolve over time, he said.

The Nedlac executive council is to present a review of the agreements and outcomes within a year. – Sapa.