This country needs to grow faster. And it needs a spectacular jump in jobs. It will only achieve these two goals with more investment. A lot more. Billions and billions more.
So it was encouraging to see the President himself at the dti on Friday to launch a new InvestSA one-stop-shop for investors.
Not that he took it quite as seriously as he might have done. He was 70 minutes late, which was not just a gross discourtesy to his own ministers and officials, but a way to send just the wrong message to the investors who were also there for the ceremony (nobody would have made the journey just for the food and non-existent booze).
The idea is sensible. Gather together in one place all the agencies which currently entangle investors in red tape, and offer investors a way to fast-track all the approvals and licences, electricity supply and visas, and so on that they will need to get their projects off the ground.
Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, for if this new anti-bureaucracy initiative does little to actually fast-track investment, it will have been a waste of everybody’s time, including that of our tardy President.
Let us give them the benefit of the doubt, though. A similar model has worked elsewhere.
The President also referred to an important new hand-holding initiative, with one or more Ministers being assigned to each major new potential investment, to assist in clearing any obstacles which may lie in the face of aspirant investors.
An excellent initiative, but one which is difficult for we outsiders to monitor. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he is hand-holding a big auto investment at Coega and a pharmaceutical one near Durban. Fingers crossed.
And, of course, we do need more work to ensure investments do actually flow here. Make it easy for the right people to come and go as they need to.
I remember quite a while back that the local CEO of BMW – a massive investor in SA – couldn’t get a work permit. That sort of embarrassment cannot recur.
Meanwhile, the scandal of inept staffing at ORT International airport remains a massive stain on the country’s reputation. The last time I met an international arrival, I had to wait at the arrivals gate almost two hours after disembarkation, as three planes had arrived at almost the same time, bringing many, many tired folk into the country. And there were just four passport officials processing the long queues of international arrivals. People were being misdirected to the wrong queues.
What a disgrace. And such an easy problem to fix……. if you are not a petty bureaucrat in a country ravaged by petty bureaucracy, incompetence and corruption.
So good luck with the one-stop-shop. Just beware of all those public sector one-stop-shoplifters.
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