Guarded praise for JZ’s first 100

2009-08-21 14:12

HEIGHTENED labour militancy and bloody robberies are the significant blemishes on an otherwise fair to good report card issued by business on President Jacob Zuma’s first 100 days in office.

South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) chief executive Neren Rau says crime and disorderly labour protests are substantially harming confidence, in the business environment.

In reviewing Zuma’s first 100 days in office, Sacci says greater weight was placed on more recent events given the challenges associated with the mobilisation of the new government structure.

Economist Monale Ratsoma of Thebe Securities says overall Zuma has done well in managing the transition and calming down anxious markets. He says the rand’s strong performance can even be seen as a vote of confidence in Zuma’s management of the transition.

Pushed to score Zuma’s performance out of 10, Ratsoma gives the president a six “or even a seven”.

“Really, thus far a lot of it has been talk and intentions. However, Zuma has done well with his appointments in the economics cluster. These may be political appointments but it is clear that the ability to do the job and do it well was the utmost consideration,” he says.

Ratsoma also lauds the government for staying true to the commitments it made to the electorate despite the recession.

“It would have been easy for another administration to say, ‘look, the economy is under strain, revenues have fallen, so we have to cut back’.

“Despite revenues coming down R60 billion below initial estimates they are not cutting down on expenditure, they are looking to borrowed finance. So there is an element of thought in trying to live up to the promises made in the election manifesto,” says Ratsoma.

Rau welcomes the transfer of the mandate for oversight for the Sector Education Training Authorities from the Department of Labour to the Department of Higher Education.

“New energy should be directed at the skills challenge,” it says.

Sacci says attention is also finally being turned to resolving concerns centred on labour-broking practices. Parliament will open public debate on the matter later this month. The National African Federated Chambers of Commerce says Zuma has shown an inclination to prioritising issues of the second economy and the small business sector in his appointments.

“We are encouraged by Zuma’s commitment to linking empowerment with the element of entrepreneurship. That way we may see more BEE deals being done with businesspeople rather than with the politically connected,” says Nafcoc president Buhle Mthethwa.

“Zuma has also been very accessible to black business and it is reassuring that our concerns are being taken to heart.”

Mthethwa also praises the new government for committing to extend its infrastructure spend to rural communities.

“That way jobs will be created in areas where the need is acute,” it says.

Sacci too says government infrastructure programmes are crucial in leading the economy through the recession. “Government’s ongoing commitment to these programmes is welcomed,” it says.

Sacci expects that Zuma’s administration will help lower telecommunications costs following the activation of the Seacom under-sea fibre-optic cable.

Another reason for optimism in Zuma’s first 100 days is the commitment of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to support businesses through the crisis.

“The challenge of accessibility of the DFIs as well as accessing financial support through private sector financial institutions remains,” Sacci says.

Sacci encouraged government’s implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol to comply with the requirements for the post-2012 climate regime.

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