President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to South Africans to take unprecedented and extraordinary measures to restore the economy of the country to good health, following the devastation caused by COVID-19. He said this on Thursday while delivering the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan in Parliament.
Ramaphosa said the plan will see the state commit R100-billion over the next three years to create jobs through public and social employment as the labour market recovers.
“The creation of jobs is at the centre of the Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. We must get our people back into the jobs they lost in the pandemic. We are determined to create more employment opportunities for those who were unemployed before the pandemic or who had given up looking for work. This means unleashing the potential of our economy by, among others, implementing necessary reforms, removing regulatory barriers that increase costs and create inefficiencies in the economy, securing our energy supply and freeing up digital infrastructure,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said some of the plan interventions will include a massive rollout of infrastructure throughout the country, the rapid expansion of energy generation capacity, an employment stimulus package to create 800 000 jobs and support livelihoods, direct support for livelihoods and the protection of jobs in vulnerable sectors as well as a drive for industrial growth.
He said the plan will also build on the common ground established by the social partners, government, labour, business and community organisations, through intensive and detailed consultations over the last few months.
“It is informed by the work of Cabinet’s Economic Cluster working together with government departments and Cabinet itself, and draws on the contributions of the leading economists who make up the Presidential Economic Advisory Council. I wish to applaud the remarkable efforts, particularly from our social partners in NEDLAC, in reaching consensus on the actions required to rebuild our economy, and the firm actions that all social partners have committed to contribute to the country’s recovery,” added Ramaphosa.
The president acknowledged the devastating effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country’s economy. He said the virus continues to cause severe damage to the global economy, affecting trade, investment, production, international travel and global supply and demand.
Ramaphosa said COVID-19 has worsened the immense challenges that have been there years before the coronavirus, deepening poverty and inequality challenges, and threatened many South Africans with hunger and a sudden loss of income. To help mitigate this, the president said the special COVID-19 grant will be extended for another three months.
“Studies have shown that these grants were vital in reducing the impact of the pandemic on levels of poverty and hunger. The evidence suggests that the expansion of social protection has kept more than 5 million people above the food poverty line during the past six months. The Special COVID-19 Grant in particular represents a significant achievement, reaching more than 6 million unemployed people in a short space of time. More than 960,000 companies have benefited through the UIF wage support scheme and through the grants and loans provided by various government departments and public entities,” explained Ramaphosa.
The president also commended the significant progress recorded by the Special Investigating Unit in probing allegations of criminal conduct in all public entities during the national state of disaster. He also assured South Africans that “there will be no political interference with the work of law enforcement agencies.”
According to the modelling done by National Treasury, the implementation of this economic revival plan will raise growth to around 3% on average over the next 10 years.