Govt needs a new box of tricks to beat unemployment, poverty, says Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Jabu Kumalo/File
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said government's current strategies were not at a sufficient scale to address unemployment.
  • Ramaphosa said government had to continue providing social support similar to the social relief of distress grant to poor South Africans.
  • Ramaphosa said South Africa's economy may not have as much room as developed economies for interventions.

Government will need to deepen its support of poor and vulnerable households as SA navigates its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.

"Subject to long-term affordability", government should consider extending social support, the president argued on Monday.

At the same time, he said it was important to improve links between social security policies and labour policies so that grant recipients can move more easily into the job market.

Ramaphosa was addressing Cosatu's seventh central committee. The event followed hot on the heels of drawn-out wage negotiations at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council and the SA Local Government Bargaining Councils.

Cosatu-aligned unions have been vocal in objecting to wage deals including a 3.5% increase for local government employees and a 1.5% hike for public servants respectively, both of which fell short of union demands.

Speaking at the event, the president adopted a conciliatory tone, thanking the federation for its support of Covid-19 interventions and praising frontline workers for their dedication. But he underlined the extent of the fiscal crisis the government was facing.

Current interventions were not enough, he stressed.

"Unemployment is beyond a crisis level, and it is clear that much more needs to be done," he said. "Our current strategies are not sufficient scale to address the extent of the problem."

While government had unlocked a stimulus package equal to 10% of the country's GDP, it was time for SA to follow in the footsteps of other countries and rethink its economic approach, Ramaphosa said.

"South Africa's economy may not have as much room as these developed economies for implementing all of the above strategies, but we must chart our own path in transforming our economy so that it is underpinned by solidarity with the vulnerable and the poor and is more inclusive," he said.

Job creation top priority

Job creation was a top priority, he added. But extending social support similar to the social relief of distress grant should also be considered, he said.

"Subject to long-term affordability, serious consideration should be given to extending further support to the unemployed, and those who are structurally marginalised, possibly in the form of an extension of the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant, targeted food-poverty-line support," sajd Ramaphosa.

"This necessarily requires better alignment and linkages between social security policies and labour market policies so that beneficiaries of social support can move more readily into employment," he added.

Ramaphosa further said infrastructure development is the flywheel of economic growth and must be upscaled to meet the needs of the economy through renewable energy, mining, water, human settlements, health, education, transport and digital infrastructure.

But corruption would have to be tackled, he said.

"We are all in agreement that the success of our revolution and the ability to bring about a better life for all, depends on the improving the capacity of the state. The state must be efficient, developmental and capable. The state must be rid of corruption, malfeasance and corruption.

"The ANC admits that we have made a number of errors, in this area and we are working to professionalise the public service. We are implementing a whole range of measures to instil a culture of service across all spheres of government, but especially at local government level where most people have regular and consistent contact with government," Ramaphosa said.

Touching on the differences between government and some unions belonging to the labour federation, Ramaphosa stressed that commitment to collective bargaining remained intact and any notion that the ANC is seeking to weaken collective bargaining is "not true".

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