State of the Nation Address 2015: Zuma should take action and not preach

Our CEO, Chris Whelan comments on what President Zuma should focus on in his State of the Nation address 2015. This article featured in Die Burger Sake 24 on 12 Feb 2015:

1. Economic Codesa

The lack of hope, of a stake in the future for the majority within South Africa, is palpable. A critical need exists to change the trajectory of South Africa’s development. The ‘lethal cocktail’ of poverty, inequality and (youth) unemployment poses a strategic risk to our democracy and every effort needs to be expended to address these issues.

The National Development Plan (NDP) calls for economic transformation and that, in the form of high, inclusive growth, requires an ‘Economic Codesa’ bringing together the leaders of business, government and civil society.

Business leaders stand ready to work with government, but clear, demonstrable actions to create a flexible labour environment and a policy environment built on consistency and that is in favour of growth, are needed. The government needs to clearly signal an end to patronage, openness to investment and a willingness and capacity to engage in robust leadership.

2. Investor Certainty

South Africa’s biggest challenges – energy-, water- and food-security, coupled to massive unemployment – cannot be addressed without growth. For far too long, the government has been equivocal in its relationships with business, sending mixed signals about wanting investment while, at the same time, tabling business-unfriendly legislation. Government needs to recognise and act on the fact that only by having investor certainty, in a climate of transparency and openness to foreign direct investment, can South Africa flourish.

3. Action Plans

South Africa needs certainty as we plot the next 20 years. This is most evident in capability-enhancing infrastructure investment, where actionable targets, tied to timelines and budgets, need to be spelt out. Vague promises – “I will create 500000 jobs in 2009” springs immediately to mind – without any concrete plans, are not needed. The time for action, not grand planning, is upon us. The President would do well to heed to mood of the country to DO, not to pontificate. People are willing to invest time and effort in ‘righting the ship’, but without clear, firm and consistent leadership there cannot be restoration of the hope of 1994.

4. Wealth Creation

Government needs to do ‘as much as required and as little as possible’, by which I mean they need to set the conditions outlined above, and then allow prosperity creation through private enterprise, which alone creates wealth and value.

Rather than interfering in the market, government must concentrate all its efforts on excellence in delivery of education, law and order / safety and healthcare, removing cadre deployment and employing the best people for the jobs. Corruption, patronage and jobs-for-pals have massively undermined South Africa and cannot be allowed to continue if we want to change tack and restore hope to the many millions whose well-being is at stake.


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