Zuma expected to focus on economic issues

2012-02-08 15:29
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State of the Nation preparation

Soldiers prepare for the State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma, scheduled to take place at Parliament in Cape Town.

Parliament - President Jacob Zuma is expected to focus mainly on economic issues in his address at Thursday evening's official opening of Parliament for 2012.

Zuma's State of the Nation address will be made against a backdrop of world economic turmoil, vast international debt, and high levels of local unemployment, pegged at about 24%.

Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said South Africans wanted to be inspired and excited about their future.

"They don't want to be presented with another bureaucratic check-list of targets and promises," she told journalists at Parliament on Wednesday.

"They want the president to be bold and decisive, to put their needs before the internal politics of the tripartite alliance."

Zuma should start by being honest about his government's shortcomings, such as the failure to keep the pledges made in previous State of the Nation addresses.

Key broken promises related to, among others, job creation, the training lay-off scheme, the youth wage subsidy, creating an enabling environment for growth and jobs, service delivery, health and corruption.

"President Zuma must use his address this year to reverse this legacy of non-delivery and broken promises, by providing bold solutions to key challenges facing South Africans and following through with them."

Zuma should take a much bolder approach to boost economic growth, and stimulate job creation. His approach should focus on encouraging private sector-led growth, and removing impediments to rapid economic growth, Mazibuko said.

"This year, President Zuma must bridge the divide between his promises and delivering on them. South Africa needs visionary leadership, innovative policies designed to address key challenges facing the country, as well as the political will to get things done. In doing this, promoting economic growth and job creation must be the president's focus," she said.

Asked at a news briefing at Parliament this week what he thought the main thrust of this year's address would be, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu responded by saying "jobs, jobs, jobs".

"Jobs, job creation, and the growth of the economy," he added.

Also on an economic note, Congress of the People spokesperson Nic Koornhof said Zuma's address was being made against the background of Moody's and Fitch revising SA's credit rating downwards.

"He cannot ignore the perception that the [National Treasury's] grip on fiscal policy is less tight and without his full support during his term of office so far."

For that reason, the Treasury under the leadership of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan should get his full support to run a tighter fiscal framework and ensure that spending decreased, and the state wage bill was contained and kept below inflation for the next few years.

It was time for Zuma to make it clear he was in full support of the Treasury and would not tolerate bad spending and ineffective implementation, Koornhof said.

Certainty and hope

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder expected "certainty and hope" in Zuma's address.

"Certainty that investments and property rights in South Africa will be safe, and hope that the government will be prepared to review economic measures which are currently dampening economic growth," he said.

Certainty was applicable to especially foreign investors, local mining managers, and South African farmers, who in recent times had had to listen to comments about the nationalisation of mines and land.

"A clear statement against nationalisation and in favour of property rights will help bring back certainty and confidence," Mulder said.

Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesperson Patrick Craven said Cosatu expected Zuma to continue rolling out the policies in the ANC election manifesto. These prioritised creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, education, health, rural development, food security and land reform, and the fight against crime and corruption.

Cosatu hoped Zuma's speech would contain good news on progress in implementing the plans contained in the New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plans.

"These plans - restructuring the economy from one dominated by mining, heavy chemicals, and finance, to one that is labour-absorbing and environmentally sound - remain the key to reaching government’s goal of creating five million decent, sustainable jobs by 2020.

Cosatu also looked forward to a firm assurance from the president that the protection of state information bill would be radically redrafted to ensure it could never be used to classify evidence of crime and corruption as "secret" or to criminalise whistle-blowers who exposed such information, Craven said.

Business Unity SA (Busa) expected Zuma to give a firm sense that 2012 "is the year of accelerated implementation of policies and programmes that have been agreed and funded".

It was recognised that growth and job creation by the private sector were maximised in an environment that offered policy certainty, predictability, continuity, and coherence.

"Busa therefore hopes that the state-of-the-nation's overall message will underpin investor confidence and the role of business to strengthen economic recovery and promote growth."

Busa said the prioritisation of job creation, poverty reduction, education, economic transformation, infrastructural development, and growth should be invested with a new sense of urgency.

Read more on:    cope  |  cosatu  |  da  |  pravin gordhan  |  pieter mulder  |  lindiwe mazibuko  |  jacob zuma  |  max sisulu  |  patrick craven  |  state of the nation 2012

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