By Fiona Wakelin
President Ramaphosa’s letter to the nation on 5 September focused on job creation – and the optimistic signs of economic recovery in the country.
His Excellency begins this first letter of the month from the desk of the Presidency by acknowledging that over the last few years, South Africans have had to contend with slow growth and rising unemployment – which had been worsened by the pandemic, an attempted insurrection unrest in July last year, and, earlier this year, severe floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West. All of which was compounded by the energy crisis. There are, however, signs of green shoots and indications that our economy is showing encouraging signs of recovery, with the latest employment figures indicating there are grounds for cautious optimism.
“Statistics South Africa recorded a decline in the unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2021. Significantly, their measurement shows that the actual number of people employed rose from 14.5 million people in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 15.5 million in the second quarter of 2022. This is an encouraging increase of much-needed jobs over the first half of this year.
“These jobs were mainly created in sectors such as community and social services, trade, finance and, notably, construction.
“Of course, much more needs to be done if we are to make a significant dent in our country’s high unemployment rate.
“At the same time, these figures indicate that the priority areas of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan – such as mass public employment, economic reform and infrastructure development – are having an impact on job creation,” – H.E. Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa reflects on infrastructure development and investment being among the key priorities of the nation’s recovery plan – which makes the growth in jobs in the construction area particularly encouraging. The government’s commitment to growth in this sector was reflected in the February budget which outlined a 30% increase in spending on public infrastructure over the next three years to R812-billion – compared to R627-billion over the past three years.
Good news in this sector came from the Construction Industry Development Board which recently noted that there has been an increase in infrastructure projects driven by state-owned enterprises like Transnet and Eskom and through the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
After focusing on the encouraging signs in the infrastructure sector, His Excellency then zooms out to look at the economy as a whole and shares with us that in June this year it returned to pre-pandemic growth levels – owing to a positive GDP outcome in the first quarter of the year; however, he also acknowledges that the the objective is to move significantly off this low base, which is why we are continuing with our focus on structural reforms that drive growth.
In order to facilitate this, H.E. notes that, at the end of August, the government published a proposed amendment to remove the licensing threshold for electricity generation facilities – with the aim of encouraging investment in larger, utility scale projects to rapidly add new generation capacity to the grid. Since the licensing threshold was raised to 100 megawatts (MW) in June 2021, more than 500 MW of private renewable power generation projects have been registered, with a pipeline of over 6 000 MW of projects at various stages of development.
“While our economy takes time to recover and our reform programme is implemented, we will continue to pursue a range of complementary interventions to support job creation. Alongside the measures that supports [sic] private sector growth, we will expand public employment and ensure social protection for the most vulnerable.
“The growth in employment, together with other promising signs of recovery, should encourage us to push ahead with the reforms and implement our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to unlock investment and growth. It should encourage all social partners to work more closely and with greater urgency and purpose to achieve faster growth and create more jobs,” – His Excellency Ramaphosa
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