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Employment is top priority

Written by Chris Bathembu and Ongezwa Mogotsi
President Jacob Zuma delivered his State of the National Address (SoNA) at a time when the economy is not growing fast enough to create much-needed jobs. Despite this, the President delivered a speech that gave a positive outlook on the country’s future.

Government increases efforts to build an enabling environment for job creation.He outlined a number of proposals aimed at boosting employment including: 

  • The establishment of an Invest SA One-Stop Shop.
  • Taking advantage of tourism as a job driver.
  • Scaling up the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
  • Using public infrastructure as a way to create work opportunities.

Government will use the Nine-Point Plan announced in the 2015 SoNA to help speed up growth and employment.

The key pillars of the plan include, among other things, resolving the energy challenge, promoting agriculture and agro-processing, advancing beneficiation, and encouraging private sector investment. 

President Zuma said government had also identified tourism as a key job driver.

“We are thus pleased that our tourist arrival numbers for the period January to November 2016 increased to nine million, an increase of just over one million arrivals from 2015. This represents a 13 percent growth in tourist arrivals,” he said.

In addition, government runs effective poverty alleviation programmes such as the EPWP.

“The EPWP has, since 2014, created more than two million work opportunities towards the attainment of the target of six million work opportunities by the end of March 2019. Of the work opportunities created, more than one million have been taken up by the youth.”

President Zuma noted that during 2015/2016, more than 61 000 work opportunities were created through Environmental Programmes such as Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, Working on Fire and Working for Ecosystems. More than 60 percent of the beneficiaries were young people.

This has led to job creation in the Northern Cape and diversification of the economy through the creation of artisan and maintenance jobs, and the promotion of science as a career of choice.

On road infrastructure, the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has started the planning phase
of the R4.5 billion Moloto road upgrade.

In 2014, government launched the Operation Phakisa Big Fast results methodology in the ocean economy, health, education and mining sectors. The purpose was to find a few key projects to unlock growth in implementing the National Development Plan.

Radical economic transformation

Meanwhile President Jacob Zuma said radical economic transformation will be at the centre of government's priorities for 2017. 

“Today we are beginning a new chapter of radical transformation. The state will play a role in the economy to drive that transformation," the President said.

He said the time had come for the state to move a step further to ensure an overhaul of the economic structure of the country for the benefit of all citizens.

“The gap between the annual average household incomes of African-headed households and their white counterparts remains shockingly huge. White households earn at least five times more than black households, according to Statistics SA,” President Zuma said.

Did you know?

Government spends R500 billion a year buying goods and services. Added to this, government also has a R900 billion infrastructure budget.