Our new Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has attended his first public engagement since his appointment a month ago, at a KPMG forum in Johannesburg, with a focus on cooperation between the private sector and the state. In a conciliatory speech, he insisted that the private sector is a key partner in growing the SA economy. The Minister noted that economic activity contracted in Q1 of this year, mainly due to manufacturing and mining production losses. The private sector has endured three consecutive quarters of job losses, but Nene expressed the hope that the end of strike in the platinum sector should have a positive impact. However, he cautioned that until workers start working, he is not going to start celebrating. The minister noted that electricity supply shortages have had an adverse impact on investment decisions and on our growth potential. He looked to the National Development Plan (NDP) to provide a menu of options to boost development and growth. Nene insisted that the government intends to improve competitiveness of private sector, and he spoke of the dynamism and agility of private sector. He spoke of a few measures outlined in the last budget to support business. These include R847 billion over the next three years for infrastructure investment, the bulk of which will be for power generation and freight logistics. There is a simplified trade regime for firms doing business with the rest of continent. 25% of SA’s manufacturing exports are destined for Sub Saharan Africa. The suite of industrial incentives has been increased and adapted. These include R2.4bn for clothing and R10.3bn for manufacturing development incentives, as well as R15.2bn in economic competitiveness and support programmes and R3.6bn for special economic zones (SEZs). Nene said that the government understands importance of SMEs for economic growth and job creation. The new SME ministry will pay particular focus to this sector. He said government and business are working together, and suggested three areas of future collaboration: sector specific interventions to increase productivity and innovation, the development of more housing rental stock for workers near their places of employment, and the identification of growth opportunities on the continent.
A confident and encouraging speech, and less left wing and interventionist than one might endure from some of his cabinet colleagues. But time will tell who yields the real power inside government.
The media were invited late in the day to this event, and it did not help that the minister started speaking 20 minutes early – before some had arrived in the over-cramped venue Sad to see a number of CEOs and overseas visitors getting overcooked food which was served over too long a period. And no wine. Thank goodness for the Nene other business.
Tweets of the Day:
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Funny Tweets (@Funny_TweetsQ): How to get a hot body: – preheat oven to 425° F – get in oven
Frankie Boyle (@frankieboyle): When games are 0-0, an extra ball should be introduced every 5 minutes or so
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