Two of the most important days on our nation’s annual events calendar aren’t public holidays, and it’s absolutely correct that they’re not.
Each February, South Africans from all walks of life share the tradition of focusing their attention on the State of the Nation Address, in which the President of the Republic addresses the nation on the country’s achievements in a given period and outlines government’s plans for the year ahead.
Soon after the State of the Nation Address, the Minister of Finance presents the annual Budget which in recent years has amounted to R1 trillion which government collects from South African individuals and businesses in the form of taxes to address the country’s development.
These two events are not government occasions, but national occurrences, because while our elected government has clear responsibilities and is accountable to the nation, the State of the Nation Address and the Budget invite all South Africans to work together to make our country succeed even more than we have in 22 years of freedom and democracy.
The State of the Nation Address and the Budget tell us how government will go about realising the vision for a future South Africa outlined in the Manifesto of the ruling party and endorsed by close to two-thirds of voters countrywide in the 2014 election.
The blueprint for a better South Africa is not a roadmap that is locked up in a vault in the Union Buildings for reference or use only by national government. The blueprint for a better South Africa is our National Development Plan, to which all sectors of South Africans contributed. The State of the Nation Address is therefore shaped by the will and wishes of ordinary South Africans and organised sectors of our country.
Our ability to implement government’s Programme of Action is tempered by the national Budget which tells us exactly how much is available to the public sector to undertake the development to which we have committed ourselves. The 2016 State of the Nation Address and Budget are surrounded and influenced by challenges we face in the domestic and global economy.
Times are tough, but we are also tough in our resolve to move South Africa forward. Our plans for the year ahead draw inspiration from the progress we have achieved in recent years and months when conditions were already difficult in the global economy. Government is doing all it can to promote entrepreneurship and make it attractive and profitable for South Africans to start businesses, invest in our own economy and create jobs for South Africans in whose education we are investing at record levels since the dawn of democracy.
While the investment climate globally is a minefield, South Africa continues to attract top-end investors who view our skills, factory infrastructure, port facilities and other assets as productive and profitable. In the auto sector alone, BMW recently committed to invest R6 billion in manufacturing the X3 range in its Rosslyn plant north of Pretoria. Similarly, tyre manufacturer Goodyear is looking to invest R670 million in South Africa, and Volkswagen a significant R4.5 billion.
Unilever has invested R4 billion in new plants and expansions across the country. Firms such as Nestlé, Samsung, Hisense have also affirmed South Africa as a regional manufacturing hub and have retained and expanded their investments in new plants. Government’s Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme (CTCP) has yielded results. Between the start of the programme in 2010 and March 2015, over R3 billion was approved to support investment in the sector. As a result 68 000 jobs were retained in the sector, 6 900 new jobs were created and 22 new factories in the leather and footwear sector opened.
In the leather and footwear segment, the dti is partnering with the private sector to establish a National Footwear and Leather Cluster. The work of the cluster has already been directly responsible for the creation of approximately 2 000 sustainable jobs and a reduction of R1.4 billion in the sectoral trade deficit. Following the adoption of a Public- Private-Partnership (PPP) model for port infrastructure development by Transnet National Ports Authority, R7 billion has been committed and already 200 jobs have been created in new port facilities and refurbishment and maintenance of existing ones over the last 12 months.
Already, investment in manufacturing includes the unlocking of R1.25 billion in investment contracts over the next five years in respect of the building of catamarans in the port of Port Elizabeth, which in turn will create potential 500 job opportunities. Behind these numbers are stories of ordinary South Africans whose great work is producing these successes for the companies where they are employed, and stories of families whose standard and security of living has dramatically improved.
When times are tough, it is often difficult to focus on the progress we are making. However, as South Africans we have no reason to be hopeless. We need to look our challenges in the eye, identify the opportunities around us, roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that is needed to move our country forward.
The State of the Nation is not the state of government; it is the state of the nation. It is up to us to improve this state with our every thought and action. That work starts today and will never end. Let all of us play our part.