Zuma praised but oversights questioned
Cape Town - Observers have welcomed President Jacob Zuma's focus on economic development in his state-of-the-nation address, but said he neglected other areas of concern, notably mining regulation.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Friday it was particularly heartened by pledged infrastructure developments that would "facilitate the movement of coal and other minerals to our ports and global markets that has long been a hindrance".
Sacci president Chose Choeu welcomed the announcement of potential savings of R1bn for business on port tariffs and the continued focus on growth and job creation.
However, he pointed out that Zuma's boast about the latest job creation figures omitted to mention that the achievement still fell short of the state's target.
"Although 365,000 people were employed in 2011, the average target of 500 000 per year was not achieved."
Choeu said the chamber would have liked Zuma to have announced new measures to help business create jobs. It thought he should also have allayed foreign investors' fears on nationalisation.
Economist Dawie Roodt agreed that Zuma missed an opportunity to address the uncertainty that faced the mining industry, especially in the wake of reports that the ANC's policy research document proposed a 50% tax on so-called "super" profits.
"Perhaps the minister of finance will say something about it in his budget speech, but President Zuma had an opportunity to quell fears of unrealistic new taxes," he said.
"An opportunity missed to give the mining industry a shot in the arm, although mining is likely to benefit from a huge capital infrastructural improvement."
Roodt said Zuma should also have raised fiscal policy as the tax regime was ripe for reform.
It was, however, likely that any mention of this would be left to Treasury chief Pravin Gordhan when he tables the budget in less than a fortnight.
The chamber of commerce noted a lack of practical pronouncements on improving education, an issue also raised by the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA.
Naptosa president Ezrah Ramasehla said schools remained beset by infrastructure problems and the lack of text books was still dire.
"We must not allow the increase in the pass rate to blind us to the ongoing crisis that still exists in education."
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry greeted Zuma's announcement on cutting port tariffs as good, and overdue, news.
"South African port tariffs, especially for container traffic, are completely out of line with tariffs in other world ports and the curb on the appetite of Transnet’s 'cash cow' is long overdue," said Michael Bagraim, president of the chamber,
He said the news would be especially welcomed by the Western Cape’s fruit and wine producers who were exporting into a depressed European market.
"This is one of the administered price increases the chamber has campaigned against for the last few years.
"This success will encourage us to become more aggressive in our criticism of airport tariffs, electricity prices, and the outdated way in which petrol and diesel prices are calculated."