High unemployment, land energy, economic growth and trade relations – President Cyril Ramaphosa faced a barrage of question from members of Parliament during his oral session in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
But once all the fluff is stripped away, what did the country’s leader really have to say?
Besides a repeat of ANC policy statements, the president didn’t make any remarkable revelations. Here’s the nuts and bolts of his plan to turn things around for South Africans:
Creating employment, especially for young people in the country, remained an urgent and critical priority, said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said government was working with its social partners to address the immediate economic challenges and to effect far-reaching reforms, that will place the economy on a new path of inclusive growth and job creation.
2. Spatial transformation
According to Statistics South Africa, more than two-thirds of households in the lowest income quintile spend more than 20% of their monthly household income per capita on public transport.
The urban spatial patterns that we inherited from apartheid, and which persist to this day, contribute to the reproduction of poverty and inequality – and must be fundamentally changed, said Ramaphosa.
Through instruments like the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act and the Integrated Urban Development Framework, spatial planning is guided by principles of social equity and economic efficiency.
Through a significant investment in the township economy, the government is working to bring economic activity to the areas where most people live.
The rapid release of well-located, but under-utilised land to develop affordable, mixed-income human settlement. Much of this land is owned publicly by national departments, provincial governments, municipalities and state-owned companies.
Ramaphosa said that the country needed to use every inch of underutilised land for people to live on and to farm.
While extending title deeds to a greater number of households is a priority, we should also secure less expensive and less complicated forms of tenure for households in informal settlements, in rental arrangements and in areas of communal land tenure, he said.
Ramaphosa reiterated the state’s commitment to using expropriation, where appropriate, to achieve social and economic spatial transformation in towns and cities.
It is critical that government, the private sector and the non-governmental organisations work together to create a sustainable growth model of compact, connected and coordinated urban areas by integrating and aligning investments, said Ramaphosa.
Through such a compact, through the transformation of our urban spaces, by strengthening property rights for all, the state hopes to ensure that the poor and working class live in decent communities located near to economic opportunities
Creating employment, particularly for young people, is the most urgent and critical priority for South Africa, said Ramaphosa.
Despite an absolute increase in the number of people employed, South Africa’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, as the population has grown and more and more people have entered the workforce.
The government has prioritised the task of significantly raising levels of investment in the economy, since that is essential for growth and job creation.
The government is addressing key policy and regulatory issues like visa requirements for skilled individuals, finalisation of the Mining Charter and the draft Integrated Resource Plan.
Announcements are expected on the allocation of broadband spectrum, the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill and the single transport economic regulator.
Governance across the public sector is being improved and the state has moved with speed to tackle state capture and corruption.
The state is working to build human capabilities through access to high quality early childhood development, access to higher education to produce skills needed for the future, youth employment interventions and improving outcomes in education and health
Barriers to entry, especially for emerging black businesses, are being reduced.
The Brics partnership offers South Africa significant opportunities to expand and diversify our trade, to attract investment and to develop our economic infrastructure, said Ramaphosa.
Trade between South Africa and its Brics partners has grown from $28 billion to $35 billion over the last decade.
Brics countries are forging ahead with initiatives to expand intra-Brics trade and investment.
6. VAT and the economy
Based on all the available evidence, a VAT increase was the one revenue raising measure that would have the least negative impact on economic growth, which is essential for job creation and the reduction of poverty, said Ramaphosa.
Government therefore set up an Independent Panel of Experts to review the current list of zero-rated VAT items.
The process of public consultation will assist in evaluating the recommendations further to ascertain if they have the potential to significantly benefit poor households.
The report also highlights some programmes on the expenditure side that would assist poorer households, such as strengthening the national school nutrition programme and increasing the child support grant and old age pension grant.
7. Land Reform
Government is determined that land reform should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid, said Ramaphosa.
An inter-ministerial committee on land reform has been tasked with coordinating measures to accelerate the redistribution of land, the extension of security of tenure, the provision of agricultural support and the redress of spatial inequality.
As a country we need to build new reliable power plants to grow our economy, said Ramaphosa.
The majority of the 27 Independent Producer Projects will start generating power and be paid for their output as from late 2020.
The 27 projects do not negatively affect Eskom’s current capacity but will supplement and support stable supply as and when Eskom commences with the decommissioning of its aged fleet.
By March 2018, 64 projects were in operation and under construction representing a total investment of R142 billion, said Ramaphosa.
Renewable IPPs have created more than 35 000 job years for youth, women and citizens from local communities and have invested about R766 million on education, health, social welfare and enterprise development projects in these communities.