Did you know – while munching your morning tea apple –The export of apples alone is projected to generate five hundred million rand in foreign exchange over three years.
In the midst of whatever you care to call last night – I thought I’d take a look at the actual speech. I can no longer listen to these speeches – the phrases ‘good story to tell’ and “nation at work’ are outside my coping ability. It’s pvr or read online.
I took a look at the actual speech – here are some excerpts and thoughts:
Unity in Africa and abroad
The speech said:
From this year, schools must also practise the African Union anthem, in preparation for the celebration of Africa month in May, as we implement the African Union decision in this regard’
Further on economic ties with various countries are mentioned when it comes to agriculture:
We will further enhance our Agro-processing exports which have been growing rapidly especially to new markets in Africa and China. For example, we have concluded agricultural trade protocols for the export of South African Maize and Apples to China.
And more: To attract foreign skills for our growing economy, we will invite dialogue with various stakeholders on the Migration Policy
(an area of concern in the medical field in particular and raised last year at the HASA conference).
I didn’t know – because I have never given it thought – that the AU had an anthem. I had to google it. It’s very noble and inspiring and has a lot of ‘Let us unite’. Now this is interesting – given the problems we seem to have with foreigners – investors in particular from small to large businesses – we are now officially part of the AU and schools (is this government schools or all schools?) will be celebrating this. It seems the very opposite of what the country is doing and what some Ministers have been saying. A good sentiment – but more in government need to express it and live it.
And it’s not just Africa that is important to us – Countries of the developed North remain important strategic partners for South Africa through which the country is able to advance its national and foreign policy.
Later on in the speech comes this line: Foreign nationals will not be allowed to own land in South Africa but will be eligible for long term lease. (more on land reform later)
What SA is concerned about – jobs, crime, employment, education
From the speech:
In terms of the inputs, our people are concerned about amongst others crime, roads, access to education, youth internship schemes, water, electricity and support for small businesses.
Yes – we are concerned about these things. Personally – and also a view expressed by others – I am concerned about leadership but I suppose that is not an issue that reasonably could be raised. I’m also a bit unclear on the phrasing – access to education. What about quality education? That has taken more coverage than access. Education itself is a big issue – not just access. The speech told us 108 schools are under construction and there are plans to establish three new universities.
These issues raised are being ‘referred to government departments for action’. Government departments need to show they are capable of action – because these things have long been a concern.
Economic growth got a mention in the speech – Our ambition of achieving a growth target of 5 per cent by 2019 is at risk. I don’t agree with this. Unless there is a complete turnaround it is unachievable and these promises need to stop being made. We are growing slowly and changing that requires dramatic action. I also remember a 6% growth figure being quoted in the past – when was this changed?
Apparently we have a nine point plan of action for growth. Below as stated in the speech – and the question they all raise is what exactly does this mean? I hope the SONA debate next week focuses in part on this. The pay back the money is starting to be a distraction for what the country really needs.
1. Resolving the energy challenge.
2. Revitalizing agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.
3. Advancing beneficiation or adding value to our mineral wealth.
4. More effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Policy Action Plan.
5. Encouraging private sector investment.
6. Moderating workplace conflict.
7. Unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises.
8. State reform and boosting the role of state owned companies, ICT infrastructure or broadband roll out, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure as well as
9. Operation Phakisa aimed growing the ocean economy and other sectors.
Jobs and labour legislation
Jobs also got a mention – and this is again where the speech deviates from reality – The situation is more promising on the jobs front. Yes you can find a stat that there has been some employment – but no respectable or credible opinion holds that our employment record is promising. It is appalling. The President quoted some stats – on the face of it they look acceptable – but many have been closely examined previously and reveal the true dire state of employment in SA. As above – employment in SA is appalling and has not yet showed signs of promise.
One of the constraints that makes people reluctant to employ is labour legislation. The speech said: The year 2015 will see further improvements in labour legislation to further promote worker rights.
There was also a lot of detail on the electricity crisis – pretty much as expected – but interesting in light of some of today’s stories are the comments in nuclear. SA has – according to SONA – had vendor parades in five countries – Russia, US, China, France and South Korea. ‘All these countries will be engaged in a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme.’
Land reform is where the speech gets really interesting – it’s right at the end – but deserves a read. Land claims are ongoing in SA and you can still lodge a land claim until 2019.
‘We are also exploring the fifty/fifty policy framework, which proposes relative rights for people who live and work on farms. Fifty farming enterprises will be identified as a pilot project.
‘The process of establishing the Office of the Valuer-General is underway, which is established in terms of the Property Valuation Act.
‘Once implemented the law will stop the reliance on the Willing Buyer-Willing Seller method in respect of land acquisition by the state.’
I’m not a legal person or a land expert – so I can only comment on the face of it – this looks radical. One of the things that makes a country attractive – for anyone and for investment in particular is the protection of property rights. Clearly an area in SA that needs much attention.
Mining and strikes
From the speech: The implementation of a number of programmes under the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry, has caused relative stability and optimism in the mining sector, which is the backbone of our economy.
Mm.. Mining might be what grew the economy and it might be the mainstay export – but is it the backbone of our economy? Manufacturing (which gets some good attention in the speech) could be more important in the future. And employment – well mines have been mechansing for many years and continue to do so.
Small business (my pet baby)
Government will set-aside 30% of appropriate categories of State procurement for purchasing from SMMEs, co-operatives as well as township and rural enterprises.
My pet baby feels ignored.
Some of the loss making international routes will be phased out.
But, we will do this in a manner that does not impact negatively on travel, trade and tourism between South Africa and the world.
Notably – left to the end – although a favoured topic in our society:
Government has in place seven anti-corruption institutions and seventeen pieces of legislation which are intended to combat corruption. This demonstrates a concerted effort by government to break the back of this scourge in the country.
52 people were convicted in the 2013/14 year, cases for more than R5mn and 31 public servants were convicted -‘and freezing orders to the value of 430 million rand were obtained.’
7 institutions and 17 pieces of legislation and less than 100 people convicted.
Another pet baby ignored – the role of the private sector
“We are surprised that nothing was mentioned about our Private Sector taking a front seat in the transformation of our economy. This refers to creation of jobs, public-private-partnerships and as far as infrastructure is concerned.”
From Terry Ramabulana, Partner and Head of Public Sector Advisory at Grant Thornton South Africa
If I look at SA as a business – and SONA as a policy statement – I remain confused on exactly what the policy in SA is, what government is doing and what the priority is. I know it’s a big business – but given the state it is in we need to set a few definite priorities. So as noble as some of the areas are – there are too many and they create confusion. There are areas of massive contradiction – property rights are unclear and our attitude, laws, respect for citizens of other countries. And there are clear areas of failure that remain unaddressed. Education has been a priority for 20 years. If you cannot show real progress in 20 years (we’ve shown regression).
I shall now consume my apple for morning tea.