Herman Mashaba

Imagine a country where the economy created jobs

2018-08-07 11:44


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In assessing the socio-economic landscape of South Africa, no single issue has greater importance than jobs. 

Against the backdrop of a country that is haemorrhaging jobs, Johannesburg achieved an additional 109 000 jobs in the first two quarters of 2018, dropping unemployment levels by 1.5%. 

Even as the economic engine of the country, the ranks of the unemployed in Gauteng swelled by 115 000.  

At the centre of so many of our problems, whether it be landlessness or crime or housing, lies the fact that millions of South Africans do not have work. As long as this remains the case, the demands of communities will always overshadow the capacity of government to meet them. 

Put differently, what South Africa needs is a growing economy that creates jobs. When this is sustainably achieved, more people will have the means to develop themselves independently of government. 

Ultimately with the dignity of work, people are able to develop their own lives and those of their families, far better and more efficiently than any government can achieve. This is true all over the world. 

Consider the impact of large numbers of people gaining access to meaningful employment. Imagine the country's social grants being directed at fewer people, perhaps with greater support. Think about such people no longer requiring government sponsored housing and being able to build their own homes better than any RDP housing standard. 

Visualise our public health care system when fewer people require it because more people have medical aid and can access private health care. A larger pool of taxpayers, increasing the means of an honest government to provide greater support to fewer people who need it. 

When the multi-party government came into office in Johannesburg, this was to become our focus. However, as a local government we had our work cut out for us. 

Massive institutional backlogs, a broken-down rule of law, a red-tape laden bureaucracy, national policy uncertainty and ANC leadership whose approach to collapsing the rand was: "The rand must fall, we will just pick it up again."

Despite this environment, the City of Johannesburg’s job increase is backed by a record R8.7bn in facilitated external investment in 2017/18. This exceeds any prior year’s achievement by over R3bn. 

The question ought to be how? 

It begins with the multi-party government creating a degree of certainty in its economy. Unlike national government nobody can doubt where Johannesburg stands on corruption, the rule of law, stability of services or the ease of doing business. These matters relate fundamentally to the tone of a government and the extent to which it begins attracting the attention of the business community. 

It is important to understand that the business community in Johannesburg, and the employment it generates, has largely operated in spite of government and not because of it. But tone remains just tone. It certainly helps that a government speaks the right language, and in our country, even this is a major step forward in the eyes of the business community. What is required is actions that give confidence to the tone that has been achieved. 

In this respect there is something of a turning tide which has started to take root in Johannesburg. 

The 2018/19 budget has revealed a demonstrable strategy in tackling our infrastructural backlogs. This is generating the idea that the provision of services, and the stability of these services is a central priority to the multi-party government. 

This is critical because businesses cannot survive if they are left wondering when the lights will go out next or the water will stop flowing. 

The road network is beginning to receive the kind of attention that it never has before, and traffic congestion is being tackled through a coordinated programme of reducing traffic light downtime. 

In the law enforcement space, 1 500 additional JMPD officers are being recruited, a K9 Narcotics Unit, more arrests in one year than four prior years combined, and the rollout of municipal courts provides confidence in this respect. 

A fast track committee is making inroads into producing an easier environment to do business in Johannesburg. Times for approving building plans, rezoning applications applying for service connections and the like are beginning to drop to record lows. 

Accomplished economists argue that it takes a year for actions of government to translate into growth and jobs. Under this understanding, the recent growth has arisen largely from the tone of the multi-party government. The impact of the record levels of investment, the results beginning to arise from tackling infrastructural backlogs and the achievements in law and order are still to be felt. 

One thing on which we are clear, is that the cause to celebrate is very limited. Even while coming down, an official unemployment figure of 30.8% is still a crisis. Similarly, with the scale of the challenges the modest inroads still leave a state of affairs far from acceptable. 

The reason why this is so critical is that it is the start of change that creates jobs in Johannesburg. 

It is a message to 899 000 residents, who are currently unemployed, that there is hope. 

- Mashaba is the executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    city of johannesburg  |  herman mashaba  |  johannesburg


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