R179m for small firms in the Cape

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Cape Town - The Western Cape government will focus on opening opportunities for citizens and creating conditions for economic growth, Premier Helen Zille said on Friday.

Delivering her State of the Province address in the provincial legislature, she said the next five years would address goals in the National Development Plan and Provincial Development Plan.

She agreed with President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation statements on Tuesday that change could only come about through creating employment and increased investment.

"One of our main priorities is making the Western Cape a leader in broadband access. This is essential if we want to grow the economy, create jobs, and become internationally competitive," she said.

To this end, the province, State Information Technology Agency, and Neotel signed an agreement on Friday morning to provide broadband to around 2 000 government sites over the next two to three years.

These sites included schools and libraries.

384 Wi-Fi hotspots

Neotel would also fund the infrastructure roll-out of 384 Wi-Fi hotspots in provincial buildings and the province would subsidise the free portion of citizens' internet access.

These hotspots would be rolled out over four years.

To assist small and medium-sized businesses, the province had budgeted R179m in the next three years for business development, procurement support, and finance access.

The red-tape reduction unit would make it easier to do business and the province would challenge any new legislation or policy that constricted ease of business.

"A good example is the immigration laws recently introduced by the national department of home affairs, which threaten the film, business, and leisure tourism industry," Zille said.

She called on Zuma to ask for an urgent review of the new law if he was serious about increasing tourism revenue.

vehicles for work opportunities

The province would look to the business process outsourcing, information and communications technology, and aquaculture industries as vehicles for work opportunities.

Addressing coastal concerns, the province wanted the area between Hermanus and Gansbaai to be declared a special economic zone.

She said this would allow perlemoen (abalone) farmers to receive special tariffs and incentives.

She would also push for the development of the province's 12 small fishing harbours.

"It is time to remind national government that, while we are committed to co-operation, the constitutional mandate for small harbours lies with local government."

Education

In education, the province would focus on improving language and maths results and upping the quality of school leaders, governing bodies and environments.

Zille said almost R3.3bn would be spent on building and upgrading health facilities in the next five years.

The premier left her province's "biggest challenge" until last, which was building housing.

"With a housing database of over 500 000 households in the province, which grows daily as urbanisation escalates, we have estimated that it will cost over R70bn to provide land, services, and top structures to everyone who needs it."

She said this was unsustainable. Citizens needed to become more involved in projects instead of waiting to receive a home.

The province was working on a new housing model that would incorporate partnerships and strategies with the city of Cape Town and other municipalities.

In the meantime, it would be delivering on a number of housing projects in its second term.

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