Less talk more action - Ramaphosa's SONA must detail recovery plan execution, says Cosatu

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President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver the State Of the Nation Address on Thursday, 11 February  2021. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver the State Of the Nation Address on Thursday, 11 February 2021. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
  • Labour federation Cosatu says the country does not need new economic plans, but rather detailed and definitive timeframes for implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
  • Cosatu's grocery list for President Cyril Ramaphosa includes more details on the vaccination rollout plan, an update on progress in achieving reliable energy and a clear vision on state-owned enterprises.
  • Cosatu says government's austerity measures has resulted in cuts to social spending and the deterioration of public services and social infrastructure and the standard of living.

At this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to provide details on the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, said the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

The president is set to deliver the SONA on Thursday, 11 February. In a statement issued on Sunday, Cosatu provided a grocery list of demands of what it wants Ramaphosa to address - including details of the vaccine rollout plan, energy security, stabilising state-owned enterprises and steps to mobilise resources to support economic growth efforts.

"We do not need new economic plans, but we need details and definitive timeframes that will speak to the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP)," said Cosatu's parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks. "The thrust of the SONA needs to speak to the rapid implementation of the ERRP. The economy is in deep trouble and unemployment has surged past 50% and it's time for less talk and swift action," he added.

Cosatu said that so far government's "austerity measures" resulted in a cut to social spending, a deterioration of public services and social infrastructure as well as the standard of living of most South Africans. Labour federation Cosatu says austerity measures adopted by government are weakening labour and state institutions.

Social relief extension

Parks said that initial relief measures to individuals and businesses affected by lockdown restrictions should be extended - this includes the Unemployment Insurance Fund's Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme and the special Covid-19 grant of R350. Cosatu also called for the revamping of the R200 billion loan guarantee scheme - with lower interest rates and easier payment terms.

Cosatu also wants debt relief for consumers and businesses and support for sectors in the economy which have felt the brunt of lockdown.

Most recently government announced a R1.2 billion equity fund for the tourism industry - which is a combination of debt finance and grant funding, Fin24 previously reported.

Ramaphosa is also expected to provide an update on progress made in securing reliable and affordable energy, via the social compact adopted last year by partners of the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

"SONA needs to update the nation on progress by government, Eskom, and business with regards to investing in new generation capacity, accelerating maintenance, eradicating corruption, and wasteful expenditure...  Eskom is the lifeline for this economy.  There cannot be an economic recovery without an efficient and stable Eskom," said Parks.

Corruption clamp down

Cosatu also wants the president to discuss the plans on building state capacity and the fight against corruption.

"Covid-19 has shown the need for a well-functioning state. SONA needs to tell the nation what is being done to rebuild what were once functioning departments, municipalities, entities and SOEs."

An update on land reform is also required - particularly Ramaphosa must speak to how government plans to expedite the process of providing farmworkers with land equity, said Parks. "The land reform issue is very central if we are to bring the more than 12 million unemployed people to the mainstream economy as a way of building an all-inclusive people's economy," he said.

Parks highlighted that SA is one of the world's most unequal countries and the SONA should address plans to restructure and radically transform the economy. "Business as usual will not work," said Parks.

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