Labour pushes?for Patel

2009-10-31 13:52

COSATU secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi wants President Jacob Zuma to make a public announcement that will finally settle the ­intense political tiff about Economic Development Minister ­Ebrahim ­Patel’s job description.

“I am hoping the president will make a proclamation very soon to put the matter to rest and close the debate. We want the turf wars to come to an end,” Vavi said.

Six months after appointing Patel Zuma has not publicly announced what the former trade unionist will do. Meanwhile, turf wars have been raging between Patel and National Planning Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Another potential turf battle that has so far been downplayed is that between Patel and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Vavi is pleased that Zuma has excluded Manuel from the economic cluster and that the former finance minister will not be responsible for economic policy co-ordination and planning. He said the role of planning and co-ordination in the economic cluster belonged to Patel.

Vavi said Patel’s job was to ensure that government’s economic policies sang from the same hymn sheet.

“Patel will ensure that all government economic policies speak to one another in pursuit of decent work and the eradication of poverty.

“As the man entrusted with economic planning and co-ordination, he must ensure that the fiscal, monetary, industrial and trade policies do not act to cancel one another,” Vavi said.

When pressed to elaborate on how Patel’s policy co-ordination would work from a practical point of view, Vavi replied: “I am not in government. I am just a trade unionist. The president will have to answer this question.”

Once the dust has settled any proclamation by Zuma will be followed by amendments to the Constitution to give Patel powers to execute his mandate.

Patel’s department was among the eight newly created departments that received a combined R562.1?million from Gordhan this week when he delivered his maiden medium-term budget speech in Parliament.

Out of that amount the economic development department received a paltry R29?million, suggesting it was still far from being a fully-fledged government department.

Cosatu is unhappy that Patel, labour’s eyes and ears in cabinet’s economic cluster, has been given so little money to work with and yet is expected to build a department from scratch. He has no staff and works from an office in the DTI Campus, the department of trade and industry’s headquarters in Pretoria.

Vavi said: “This has to be explained. You can’t effectively carry out a mandate with this money.”

Patel’s spokesperson, Zubeida Jaffer, said the department had assumed some of the responsibilities that were previously that of the DTI.

Jaffer said: “The two ministers (Patel and Davies) and senior staff have made considerable progress in identifying the functions and commencing the organisational and legal work to ensure the transfers. Engagements with other ministries are continuing.”

She did not name the ministries that are being asked to give up some of their responsibilities to Patel. She said Patel has been given the lead role of reducing the current account deficit, which was R73.1?billion in the second quarter of this year. He is also spearheading government’s response to the global recession.

Economist Iraj Abedian believes that once Patel’s mandate has been clarified it will be hard for him not to step on the toes of other ministers in the economic cluster.

Abedian says creating the economic development department might have appeased leftists in the ANC-led tripartite alliance but it has also caused friction.

“If a technical decision was taken the friction and inconsistencies would have been minimised,” Abedian says.

He says he initially thought the department would be an economic advisory department.

“The policymakers would put out policies that others would implement,” he says.

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