19/06/2014 – What is the plan, Honourable President? – asks ACDP

ACDP Parliament
Response to SONA, 5th Parliament
Speech by ACDP President Rev Kenneth Meshoe, MP

What is the plan, Honourable President? – asks ACDP

“Honourable President, Honourable Deputy President, Honourable members,

Very few people, if any, can confidently claim that the honourable President, during his State of the Nation address on Tuesday evening, was effective in inspiring much hope or confidence in South Africans, particularly those in the business sector, when our country is facing the serious threat of a possible recession.

Regrettably, in our view, the honourable President made the same promises that were made in the past. What the nation wants to see is a speedy realisation of the undertakings made to address the poor state of the economy, and to create jobs.

In identifying agriculture as a key job driver, the honourable President said that government’s target is ‘for the agricultural sector to create a million jobs by 2030’. When he mentioned this target, there was murmuring in the house, as members indicated their disbelief at yet another impossible promise made to our nation.

How will government ensure that the agricultural sector creates an additional million jobs in the next 15 to 16 years, when our country is fast losing experienced farmers to other African countries and abroad, because of violent farm attacks, which government does not seem to have the will or capacity to stop?

How will the agricultural sector create a million jobs by 2030 when many small farmers, particularly black farmers are not properly skilled and mentored for large scale farming, and do not have adequate resources to grow in this sector.

Speaker, we were hoping that the 5-month long strike on the platinum strike had been resolved, but it seems there are further complications. The strike was the main contributor to the negative 0.6% GDP figure for the first quarter of 2014, as well as the recent downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating by S&P and the shift in the country’s credit outlook from stable to negative by Fitch Ratings. This will result in State debt service costs rising which will place more pressure on the fiscus.

The ACDP supports the National Development Plan, which we believe must be speedily implemented if the country is to avoid slipping down a further notch by credit rating agencies, which will result in what is known as a junk bond status.

Honourable President, while we welcome the commitment that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will convene the social partners dialogue to meet and deliberate on the violent nature and duration of the strikes, we question why this was not done earlier, given the protracted nature of this strike – 5 months. The suffering experienced by families of miners and local businesses is immense. Innocent people are losing their businesses, assets and properties because of their failure to meet their financial obligations. Many hungry children are missing school and those who are sick are not able to take medication on empty stomachs.

The private sector cannot show much confidence in the economy if the status quo remains. Government must be seen to be actively creating an environment where business can thrive. Indeed, the low level of investments will continue to constrain economic growth if government does not do more.

When the President said, and I quote, ‘I would like to share with you now, our plan of action to revitalise local government,’ I thought to myself, now we are in the right direction.  But I was disappointed. The President did not have any new plan to offer.  All he did was to give us a list of eleven municipalities who stood out for consistent good performance in audits and expenditure on municipal infrastructure grants and service delivery, and promised support to other struggling municipalities.

While we commend those eleven municipalities for their excellent work, and encourage this, what we want to know is, what is the new plan, if any, Mr President? Is it to throw more money at problems in municipalities? How will corruption, irregular and wasteful expenditure in municipalities be dealt with?  What is the plan, Honourable President?

In August last year, the former Auditor-General, Terence Nombembe, said a lack of committed leadership lies behind a sharp deterioration in financial management in municipalities. Clean audits have remained at the low level of 5% for the past three years, and the overall audit outcomes have regressed.  Will the honourable President’s plan of action to revitalise local government address the concerns and audit outcomes regression that the former Auditor-General highlighted?”

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