Finding a way to work together

2014-04-03 00:00

SOUTH Africans spend too much time haggling among themselves instead of asking how do we get the labour, business and government sectors to work together to create opportunities for ourselves in the global market, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said yesterday.

He was speaking at a Telkom and Absa post-Budget event in Durban yesterday morning. He said ways needed to be found to get the three parties to begin working together, and form “the same level of agreement around economic issues as we did around political issues” in 1994, he said.

“It is a rough world out there … we have to develop the muscle ourselves as a society if we want to be a force in Africa or in the world economy.”

He said the government recognised that the private sector was the main creator of jobs, which was one of the reasons why around R450 billion had been spent on incentives to the private sector between 2007 and 2012.

“We don’t just take tax, but we put some of it back into the system,” he said.

Gordhan said South Africa had bounced back from the last recession in 2008-2009 — the government lost R60 billion in revenue, a million jobs were lost and many businesses were closed over that period — but it had not yet bounced back high enough.

He said tax revenue was 26% of GDP, a figure that was more than 27% before the recession.

Nevertheless the economy was on track to record 2,7% growth this year, be a net creator of jobs, the investment in infrastructure was ongoing, and a great deal of incentives and other measures were in place to support small businesses and the private sector, he said.

KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronjé said the province had turned around from a situation five years ago of “massive” overspending to the point where it was uncertain whether it could continue to fund its financial commitments.

Not only was the province now in a good position to meet all its financial commitment, but it could afford to spend money on some “once-off” projects that would be funded from the province’s own income sources and from savings and cost cuts.

“We’ve navigated an horrendous storm and our ship is sailing comfortably,” she said.

Cronjé said the “crack team” of architects and other building sector specialists hired to unblock infrastructure spending blockages in the provincial government had proved a success, with provincial departments now spending close to 100% of their infrastructure projects.

In addition, the team had also helped to “unblock” R300 million in municipal projects, and had in the past year prevented R100 million of unspent funds being sent back to National Treasury.

She assured the audience that the province was doing all it could to prevent fraud and corruption, such as the introduction of a biometric access control system for computers.

In addition, many people continue to be arrested, she said. “Sometimes it happens slowly, but it happens.”

The province had also introduced a bid appeals tribunal in each district for aggrieved tenderers.

A unit had also been established in the Provincial Treasury to deal with non-payment of bills by provincial government departments with 30 days, and of 606 unpaid invoices reported since September 2011, 558 had so far been sorted out.

The province had also invested in airport infrastructure, and for example the airport in Pietermaritzburg had been converted from a facility that was once a drain on municipal finances, to one that was now generating a cash surplus, said Cronjé.

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