Business Unity South Africa (Busa) urges President Cyril Ramaphosa to prioritise business and investor confidence at Thursday’s State of the Nation Address – and to steer clear of empty promises and electioneering.
Busa CEO, Cas Coovadia, told eNCA that the president should not make promises during his address that the country cannot afford – and should acknowledge the partnerships between the government and private businesses in dealing with the country’s energy, logistics, and crime and corruption issues.
“I appreciate that it is an election year, but the President’s State of the Nation Address is as the President of South Africa, not the President of the ANC,” said Coovadia.
“As the President of South Africa, he has got to conduct himself and make announcements that the country [and] fiscus can afford, within the context of what Treasury has already said: that we don’t have the money for many of these projects that [government] would want to put in place.”
“We have to send out a message that says that we have problems, we have crises, but we are working together to address those in a sustainable way,” he said.
He added that the president should also promise to continue doing so and not try to “ram through parliament projects and legislation that seem good and ultimately have a good aim,” but the country’s fiscus cannot afford.
Should the president fail to stay on message, the business lead said potential investors would remain sceptical about South Africa.
Busa urged the president to reassure investors of a cohesive operating environment by highlighting the partnerships in place that are slowly yielding results.
“One of the reasons for the partnership is to instil confidence in the country and instil confidence among investors.”
“If the President… acknowledges the partnership, I think that sends out a message to investors and the country that despite… the myriad of crises we have, the public and private sector are working together to try to address the problems,” said Coovadia.
“We are raising money from the private sector to build capacity… to help us do this work; [So the acknowledgement] gives the private sector the confidence that their contribution is being recognised,” he said.
Coovadia refuted claims that these partnerships are about the “privatisation” of ailing entities, but rather framed them as mutually beneficial relationships for both the private and public sectors.
“I don’t think we as the private sector want to own Eskom or Transnet – what we are saying is that the private sector has the capacity and resources to operate some of the critical infrastructure that [they] have.”
Using energy as an example, Busa highlighted that the private sector has secured upwards of 4,000 MW since the president lifted the ceiling. This is expected to be connected to the grid over the next year, taking weight off some of the country’s energy woes.
Similarly, in Transnet and logistics, “private sector companies can build, operate, and maintain major logistic arterials across the country – owned by Transnet,” said Coovadia.
The private sector has “an efficient, well-operated logistics system [and] the state can utilise that to transport whatever [they] need to transport,” he added.