OPINION: QUIT THE JOBS DOUBLE SPEAK: THE HERALD

OVER the last three months much attention has been given to the issue of unemployment. This featured heavily in the State of the Nation and Province addresses, and subsequent budget speeches at those levels.

This is not unexpected on the eve of a municipal election as jobs are a key issue.

Government is caught in an inertia trap of its own making. On the one hand it tries to create jobs through various funds and on the other hand it proposes to destroy them with new legislation.

This ideological fixation means fewer jobs, resulting in less food on the table for hungry families.

South Africa’s unemployment rate at 25.3% is one of the highest in the world. It is far higher than other developing countries such as Argentina (8.4%), Brazil (7.6%) and Chile (9%).

Of course the R20-billion in tax breaks outlined in the State of the Nation address, the R10-billion from the IDC that will be put aside to stimulate job growth and the R9-billion jobs fund are all steps in the right direction. Likewise at provincial level the Eastern Cape Investment Fund is a positive move.

However government has four proposed new labour Bills that will negate any impact these funds will hope to achieve. A regulatory impact analysis carried out by the Department of Labour and the Presidency confirmed that the Bills will worsen unemployment.

Thus government’s own experts warned this could put two million jobs at risk

The four Bills in question deal with labour brokering, amendments to the basic conditions of employment, employment equity and the legislation dealing with employment agencies. The proposed banning of labour brokering is estimated to put between 500 000 and a million people out of work.

Of course any inhumane practices associated with labour brokering need to be dealt with, but it should be noted that close to 50% of those working for labour brokers are first time workers, 70% of whom move on to permanent jobs.

Government policy is therefore a complete contradiction. On the one hand it provides for job funds and on the other it creates legislation that will achieve the opposite effect.

This contradiction can only be ascribed to the power of the unions on the one hand and government’s fixation with its brand of transformation on the other. The recent comments in regard to employment equity in relation to the “over-concentration of coloureds” in the Western Cape is a case in point.

This doublespeak on jobs will not resolve the massive crisis this country faces on this issue. A gigantic mindset shift needs to take place.

We need the best possible climate for job creation. We need to build a solid base of entrepreneurs, not swarms of tenderpreneurs trying to manipulate government processes.

We need to encourage small business by making it easier for them to do business. Government should withdraw these onerous labour Bills and take positive steps by urgently reviewing all existing labour laws to relieve small business of onerous provisions.

At provincial level the province can take immediate steps to free up resources needed to create the right climate for job creation by eradicating corruption and over-pricing when it comes to the tender process. Recently it was reported the Health Department had lost R800-million to corruption.

At local level we need the right infrastructure, including roads, water, electricity, sewerage, public transport and telecommunications. Investors large and small who are the engine of job creation want these services.

In the city of Cape Town where the DA is in government it has been possible through good governance to turn things around. The DA more than trebled the spending on infrastructure in the five year period under its control from R5-billion to R19-billion.

It has doubled spending on repairs and maintenance from R800-million a year to R1.6-billion. The greatest quantity of free basic services available to poor people occurs in the city of Cape Town.

This makes Cape Town a better place to live and invest in for its entire people.

To eradicate corruption at local level the DA opened up the bid adjudication tender award committee to the public. This has resulted in the supplier data base of small businesses increasing from 10 000 to 16 677 as people know they have a fair chance to win a tender.

Unless we adopt a Cape Town style of governance in this metro (where unemployment is at 38%) and elsewhere in the province, poverty and unemployment will continue to haunt us. The connected elite will continue to flourish at the poor’s expense.

Poverty is choking most of the Eastern Cape. Poverty robs people of dignity, it results in hunger and poor health.

Its victims are subjected to a poor education, and people who live in such a state of despair often turn to alcohol and drug abuse which in turn fuels our crime levels.

By slaying the dragon of poverty we can create hope in place of hardship. Government at all levels must create the right climate for economic growth and job creation, and deliver essential services to all the people.

This is your passport to prosperity. It can be done. It’s time for change.