Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, government’s strategy has been to provide whatever support it can, using constrained resources, to protect businesses and preserve jobs, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the nation, Ramaphosa said it the country must now move quickly towards ‘a robust programme of reconstruction and recovery’.
“In the State of the Nation Address in February, I said that there were three things we would focus on this year.
“First, we were going to fix the fundamentals. Second, we would pursue new sources of growth. Third, we would ensure that our actions are underpinned by a capable state,” he said.
“Many of the plans under discussion raise these fundamentals, such as reliable energy, access to broadband spectrum, competitive ports and efficient transport.”
The president acknowledged calls to seek out ‘pockets of excellence’ within the state and look outside government to bring together the best available local skills, whether in business, academia or civil society.
Building the future
Ramaphosa said that there is now general consensus that the country’s recovery should be led by infrastructure development and maintenance.
“At the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium organised by the Presidency a few weeks ago, business and government were of one mind on a new methodology to develop an infrastructure pipeline and deliver on it. Investors from the multilateral development banks, development finance institutions and the private sector all showed a strong appetite to make the necessary investments to meet South Africa’s extensive and diverse infrastructure needs,” he said.
“In the coming weeks, we will work with our social partners to finalise an economic recovery programme that brings together the best of all the various proposals. The most important part of that programme must be the protection and the creation of jobs.”
Ramaphosa said that if the country is to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, it also needs well-crafted public employment schemes.
“Creating jobs for people that add value to their communities through maintenance, care work and other services, keeps people engaged in productive activity. It helps them to retain and to develop skills,” he said.
“It gives many young people a chance to climb the first rung in the job market ladder. Such jobs complement employment created by businesses as they start to recover and private investment returns.
“As the recovery takes hold and the world gradually adjusts to a global economy marked by Covid-19, we expect economic activity to pick up.
“By then, our initiatives to reform and improve the business environment will establish a firm platform for industries with high potential to flourish.”