We’re not a hopeless case despite setbacks and challenges

16 February 2023

By: Michael Currin

There are glaring omissions of the government’s achievements in Duma Gqubule’s most recent column.

Duma Gqubule’s most recent column foretells precarious economic prospects for our nation as a result of the government’s action, but it has some glaring omissions.  (“SA’s worst president since 1994?”, February 7).     

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly derailed our economic advances. What began as a health crisis escalated into an economic one that severely affected businesses and livelihoods.

We saw economic activity drop 51% in the second quarter of 2020, and more than 2-million people were forced out of work. This huge knock would be devastating for any nation, but it compounded centuries of deep-rooted structural issues inherited from our fractured past.

No-one could have predicted the devastation the pandemic would inflict on our nation. It has taken immense effort from the government under the stewardship of President Cyril Ramaphosa, and its social partners, to deal with the repercussions, many of which are still with us today. Contrary to Gqubule’s view, our recovery has been remarkable given the enormity of the challenges we have faced since early 2020.

In the middle of last year, spurred on by interventions through our Economic Reconstruction & Recovery Plan, our economy managed to claw back to pre-Covid levels. The statistics themselves validate this bold claim when we saw promising signs, as economic growth for the third quarter of 2022 showed our economy expanding by 1.6%.

Our improved prospects flow from the steadfast implementation of our economic programmes under Ramaphosa, whose strong political leadership at the highest level of government has shifted our economic trajectory. The president himself, through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, spearheaded our nation’s drive to draw more people into employment, particularly the youth.

Once again the statistics reaffirm our assessment. In 2022, 1-million  participants were part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, and more than 3-million youths are registered on the innovative SAYouth.mobi platform, which connects them with prospective employers.

These initiatives, together with those of our partners in the private sector, helped the economy create about 1.5-million new jobs, pushing unemployment to its lowest level in six quarters. The Stats SA quarterly labour force survey for the third quarter of 2022 showed a gain of 204,000 jobs, which builds on the 648,000 jobs created in the second quarter of 2022.

Although we are not where we would have liked to be in our economic trajectory, we have made strong inroads in positioning our economy for growth in the face of what seemed like insurmountable challenges.

Since the start of the administration, the government has consistently shown it is willing to take the tough decisions necessary to grow our economy. We have been working hard to restore credibility, stabilise finances and improve the operational performance and governance at state-owned companies.

Our frank assessment of our economic and national challenges has been a stimulating feature of our economic engagements. We have openly acknowledged that we are emerging out of a very challenging period where policy missteps and the disastrous effects of state capture worsened many of our legacy challenges. Furthermore, public violence in KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021 and the devastating floods across the country also curtailed our economic growth.

We will not be deterred in our determination to forge ahead with the implementation of our Economic Reconstruction & Recovery Plan to create jobs and reduce poverty and inequality. This is also the engine of our efforts to transform key sectors of our economy such as electricity, rail, ports and telecommunications.

In reviving our economy we’ve been on a deliberate path to reclaim our investment credibility and attract new investment.  Since the first SA Investment Conference in 2018, SA has attracted more than R1.14-trillion worth of investment commitments through the SA Investment Conference, which represents 95% of the initial target.

Our infrastructure drive to restore economic growth and create employment has been gaining momentum. Catalytic projects to the value of R21bn began last year, while our Infrastructure Fund is working with state entities on a pipeline of projects valued at about R96bn in student accommodation, social housing, telecommunications, and water and sanitation. In 2022 we made good progress on the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme, with 48 bridges built.

In transforming our energy sector, Ramaphosa announced far-reaching interventions to reduce load-shedding and increase energy availability. We are adding new energy generation capacity through a huge increase in private investment into electricity generation.

Several new energy generation projects will come online over the next few years, including renewable energy to support the national grid from bid windows 4, 5 and 6 of our renewable energy programme. In addition to closing the energy supply shortfall, we are implementing fundamental changes to the structure of the electricity sector, including the unbundling of Eskom into three separate subsidiaries.

Operation Vulindlela is accelerating economic reforms to secure confidence in sectors affected by regulatory uncertainty and unlock greater investment in growth sectors. Our reforms will improve efficiency and competitiveness, bring down the cost of doing business in SA, and encourage greater private investment in our economic infrastructure.

A key tenet of our economic programme is fostering a united front against our economic and social challenges. We have since the start of the administration worked to build partnerships between the government, labour, business and civil society so that together we will be able to overcome our challenges.

There is a clear economic programme and commitment at the highest level to bring about change that benefits every South African. Together we can build momentum that will inject a new impetus into our economy so that we leave no-one behind.