The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber in Port Elizabeth says it was encouraged by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's mini budget in October, which indicated an overall commitment to bolstering investor confidence and providing an environment conducive to sustainable business growth.
"It is our hope that the budget speech in February will continue to make economic development a priority," Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona told Fin24.
"We recognise that, in order to grow the economy and create job opportunities for the country's unemployed masses, we need much more investment in the productive sectors of the economy, public infrastructure and skills development. The latter should be tailored in line with the labour market needs of the future, as our industries continue to advance into the digital space."
As part of its strategic direction, the Business Chamber has identified and continues to promote the development of several sectors that are crucial to fostering sustainable economic growth in Nelson Mandela Bay.
These include automotive, agro-processing, light manufacturing, maritime, oil and gas, the creative industry and tourism. To this end, we would like to see investment promotion in these areas included in government’s priorities.
"In line with the efforts to bring foreign investment to our shores, we need to see clear plans and timelines for government’s interventions at troubled state-owned entities, including Eskom. As a nation we must know more about how these entities and their operations will be structured, managed and funded in future," commented Mona.
"Our government cannot afford to direct funds needed to promote economic growth towards bailing out these institutions, if there are no decisive strategies to deal with the problems in the long term. In addition, the current trajectory of state spending must be curtailed and used more productively towards encouraging economic growth."
The chamber hopes to hear more about government's plans to bolster small business development, including details around Minister Lindiwe Zulu's national strategy for reducing the red tape that is hampering the success and sustainability of small and medium businesses.
"Our interest was also piqued by Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom's announcement early in January around a strategy to develop cruise tourism in 2019. As we believe tourism is an invaluable sector in Nelson Mandela Bay, we hope government will offer sufficient financial support to this initiative," said Mona.
In Nelson Mandela Bay these efforts would be maximised by the waterfront development planned for the City, pending the removal of manganese facilities from the port of Port Elizabeth planned for 2023, according to the chamber.
"We urge government to assist in expediting these processes by Transnet in order to boost our tourism sector," said Mona.
Furthermore, Mona said the business community needed to know more about the carbon tax that is expected to be introduced later this year and how it will affect their industries.
"We do not expect the introduction of other taxes, as it is an election year and the private sector is not performing well enough for businesses to sustain further increases in corporate tax," said Mona.
"As the Business Chamber, we have seen first-hand the value of our triple-helix model of collaborating with government and academia, and we believe collaboration between the public and private sector on various issues affecting business would go a long way towards promoting the ease of doing business in SA."