Written by Allison Cooper, for Public Sector Manager Magazine: July 2019
President Cyril Ramaphosa has a dream. A dream in which the first new city, built in the democratic era, rises with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories. The seven priorities and five goals highlighted in his recent State of the Nation Address aim to achieve this dream.
Not enough jobs are being created in South Africa and our economy is not growing. These challenges rose above all others in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 20 June.
The President said that while remarkable progress in building a new nation has been made over the past 25 years, South Africa is confronted by severe challenges.
“Our economy is not growing. Not enough jobs are being created. This is the concern that rises above all others. It affects everyone.
“Through the elections held in May, you provided all of us with a clear mandate for growth and renewal. We have heard you,” the President said.
The President explained that the growth of the economy will have little value unless it creates employment on a greater scale.
“The fact that the unemployment rate among young South Africans is more than 50 percent is a national crisis that demands urgent, innovative and coordinated solutions.
“The brutal reality is that when it comes to youth unemployment, we have to run just to remain in the same place.”
The President confirmed that it’s essential to implement a comprehensive plan – driven and coordinated by the Presidency – without delay, to create no less than two million new jobs for young people within the next decade.
“This plan will work across government departments and all three tiers of government, in partnership with the private sector,” the President confirmed.
Growth and renewal
The sixth administration has put five goals and seven priorities in place to tackle South Africa’s challenges and meet the targets set out in the National Development Plan (NDP) by 2030.
“With 10 years to go before we reach 2030, we have not made nearly enough progress in meeting the NDP targets. Unless we take extraordinary measures, we will not realise Vision 2030. This means that we need to prioritise.
“It is time to make choices. Some of these choices may be difficult and some may not please everyone. In an economy that is not growing, at a time when public finances are limited, we will not be able to do everything at one time,” the President said.
The sixth administration will thus focus on economic transformation and job creation; education, skills and health; consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services; spatial integration, human settlements and local government; social cohesion and safe communities; a capable, ethical and developmental state; and a better Africa and world.
“All our programmes and policies across all departments and agencies will be directed in pursuit of these overarching tasks.”
Goals for the future
“To ensure that our efforts are directed, I am suggesting that, within the priorities of this administration, we agree on five fundamental goals for the next decade,” the President said.
These goals are to ensure that no person in South Africa is hungry; the economy grows at a much faster rate than the population; two million more young people will be employed; schools have better educational outcomes and every 10 year can read for meaning; and violent crime is halved.
“Let us make these commitments now – to ourselves and to each other – knowing that they will stretch our resources and capabilities, but understanding that if we achieve these five goals, we will have fundamentally transformed our society,” said President Ramaphosa.
To meet these goals, the President stressed that the focus should be on strengthening the social wage and reducing the cost of living; improving affordability, safety and integration of commuter transport for low-income households; accelerating the provision of well-located housing and land to poor South Africans; and attending to the capacity of hospitals and clinics.
“To address the problems of the working poor, the national minimum wage has been in place for six months and the early indications are that many companies are complying.
“The National Minimum Wage Commission is expected to conclude research on the impact of the minimum wage on employment, poverty, inequality and wage differentials by the end of September 2019,” the President said.
Pay for electricity
Another grave concern highlighted by the President is Eskom’s financial position.
With the current committed funding from government, Eskom only has sufficient cash to meet its obligations until the end of October 2019. Government will thus urgently table a Special Appropriation Bill to allocate a significant portion of the R230 billion fiscal support that Eskom needs over the next 10 years.
“This we must do because Eskom is too vital to our economy to be allowed to fail. We must assert the principle that those who use electricity must pay for it.
“Failure to pay endangers our entire electricity supply, our economy and our efforts to create jobs. The days of boycotting payment are over. This is now the time to build, it is the time for all of us to make our own contribution,” the President stressed.