President failed to inspire, tackle jobs

2013-02-17 10:00

In his state of the nation address on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma forfeited the opportunity to provide a nation drifting in the economic doldrums with fresh hope.

Zuma’s cut-and-paste speech spoke of a president and a government that is without an anchor rooted in the bedrock of principles and a coherent policy programme.

Presidential leadership, at the human level, requires tact, a deft touch and an engaging manner.

We got the opposite this week.

At the management level, a president must set out a vision of where he or she wants to take the nation.

That vision must be rooted in people’s aspirations for themselves, their families and communities.

Characterised by multiple policy deficits, Zuma’s address lacked an overall animating theme.

But we all could have written the theme.

I have no doubt that if one was to ask nearly every South African what their biggest concern was, they would reply jobs.

But how can the president not read this correctly?

The millions of unemployed young South Africans, from the unskilled to highly qualified graduates, must have been bitterly disappointed by the president’s lack of empathy for

their plight.

Everyone was waiting for Zuma to end his foot-dragging and announce when the youth wage subsidy will be implemented.

Instead, he spoke nonchalantly about the drawn-out process of Nedlac, the government, labour and business negotiating chamber, as if young people had all the time in the world to wait for a job opportunity.

We do not know what the opportunity cost will be of the hundreds of thousands of potential jobs lost because of the government missing the implementation deadline by nearly a year.

And, on another level, we cannot measure the pain and sense of indignity of a lost generation.

Our hearts are with them.

A president who has just recently been given a new mandate by his party could have, once and for all, stood up to bullying labour federation Cosatu.

If Zuma had stared Cosatu down on Thursday, he would have enjoyed the support of the nation.

But political expediency trumped job creation and growth.

One shudders to think what concessions have been made to Cosatu behind closed doors.

And instead of encouraging the private sector, the most precipitous place for economic growth to take place, Zuma “appealed” to it to employ graduates.

This was a non sequitur: What private sector in the world does not want, and needs, to employ graduates with the right skills?

The president’s wooden rhetoric demonstrated that he remains married to government interventionalism.

This paradigm was discredited in the 1970s and 1980s.

If Zuma had looked at the success of our fellow Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) partners and beyond, he would know that the only way to create millions of new jobs is through accelerated economic growth.

The state can only foster innovation and the best conditions for enterprise.

It is not a job creator.

President Zuma missed an opportunity to set a date for the youth wage subsidy and a plan to build a dynamic economy.

»?Mazibuko is DA parliamentary leader

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