Speech notes: Reply to State of the Province Address by Hon. Vicky Knoetze, 23 February 2017

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT MUST BE A FOCUS AREA IN ORDER TO GROW THE ECONOMY AND CREATE JOBS

  • Invest in infrastructure to grow the economy and create jobs.
  • With economic growth comes greater opportunity for job creation.
  • The Democratic Alliance is coming for the Lost Generation.

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests, good afternoon.

Honourable speaker, the Premier cited in the State of the Province Address that our economy was influenced by global economic challenges; which was the reason for our slow economic growth. However, the global economic climate was just one role player in slow economic growth.

The fact is Honourable Speaker, that in the last quarter of 2016, economic growth has been at its slowest in 7 years, mainly due to a weak labour market, high inflation having a negative impact on private consumption and the fact that the investment market was undermined by political in – fighting in the ANC.

Honourable Speaker, how can we then place the blame for poor economic growth squarely on the global economic climate when other African countries have flourished? It is clear that infrastructure investment can accelerate economic development in less developed nations and emerging markets such as South Africa.

As a province, as well as nationally, we need to invest in infrastructure for economic growth and job creation. It will be central to ending extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity.

Nations that invest in infrastructure are better positioned to attract direct foreign investment, support local business and stimulate commerce.

According to the African Development Bank, to attain middle-income levels, Africa must double its investment in infrastructure.

It is estimated Honourable Speaker, that we must invest at least 5 – 6% of GDP in infrastructure development. It is currently at 2 – 3 %. Economic growth is at less than 1.2% where the National Development Plan aims for 5%, the fact is, that to be in line with other developing countries in Africa, we need to be at a level of at least 8% economic growth.

In comparison, Ethiopia’s investment, as a percentage of GDP, rose from 20.2 per cent in 2000 to 39.2 per cent last year. Kenya has also raised its public investments on big infrastructure projects with its investment as a percentage of GDP rising from 18 per cent in 2000 to 22.4 per cent in 2014.

Honourable Speaker, The Ivory Coast is Africa’s fastest growing economy, according to the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook. The West African nation’s GDP grew 8.5% last year. This was mainly due to government policies and structural reforms, which have resulted in strong inclusive growth. Strong economic activity has been maintained through a strong aggregate demand and increases in investment, both public and private.

As another example, Ethiopia’s economy is expected to overtake Kenya’s this year, because of considerable government spending on infrastructure that has kept the nation on the list of the world’s fastest-growing economies in the past 10 years.

According to the African Economic Outlook Report:

“Ethiopia has experienced double-digit economic growth, averaging 10.8 per cent since 2005, which has mainly been underpinned by public-sector-led development.”

Ethiopia’s rise has been fuelled by mega public-sector investment similar to the Chinese model that has enabled them to become the world’s second-largest economy relying on the state-led investment in infrastructure.

Build roads, railways, industrial parks, harbours, bridges, power stations and telecommunications infrastructure and the economy WILL grow and jobs WILL be created.

Honourable speaker, a lack of investment in infrastructure and the dismal rate of economic growth has a direct link to unemployment in South Africa and the Premier attested to this fact in the SOPA address. The unemployment rate in South Africa fell to 26.5 percent in the last three months of 2016 after reaching a 12 year high of 27.1. We can again compare this to other African countries like Uganda, where the unemployment rate is 3.8%, Ghana at 5.2% and the Ivory Coast at 5.3%.

“We are not yet free… We have merely achieved the freedom to be free.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995)

For many South Africans, the political freedom achieved in 1994 has not been matched with economic freedom. The fact that one out of every four South Africans does not have a job is the clearest and most disturbing expression of the lack of economic freedom.

The unemployed are not free Honourable Speaker; we have to prioritise jobs as a passport to freedom because unemployment fuels poverty and inequality. Currently, more than four out of every ten South Africans live below the poverty line, this makes South Africa one of the most unequal societies in the world. As a nation, we should be much further down the road towards economic freedom.

Statistics South Africa calculates the unemployment rate among youth between the ages of 15 and 24 at 63%. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Risks report, South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world.

#hireagraduate

#hiremeimqualified

This was the sad reality in our very own Eastern Cape just yesterday as unemployed graduates partook in a silent campaign to draw government’s attention to the reality of graduates without jobs. The question is honourable speaker; do they have your attention now?

No country can create jobs or include more people in the economy without economic growth.

With the Democratic Alliance in government, conditions will be created for the South African economy to grow at 8%.

  • We will bridge this study-work divide and equip graduates with the necessary skills;
  • Invest heavily in a private sector apprenticeship programmes
  • Establish a nation-wide government internship programme across all departments;
  • We will create a demand – an expanding labour market to absorb these millions of young South Africans. And this means sustained, inclusive economic growth.

The expanded definition of unemployment, honourable speaker, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, is at 35.6 percent, nationally and 61% in the Eastern Cape.

Martin Luther King JR said: “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”.

Honourable Speaker, the fact that 1 in 3 people in South Africa have stopped looking for work means that a third of South Africans have accepted finite disappointment when it comes to finding a job, when it comes to providing for their families, when it comes to becoming prosperous, when it comes to dreaming about their future and that of their children and when it comes to having a caring government that will provide opportunity, access to basic services, basic education, healthcare and jobs. They are indeed a lost generation.

But, honourable speaker, the people of South Africa might have accepted finite disappointment, but I will say this, the people of South Africa have not lost infinite hope. The lost generation, the unemployed and the marginalised have not lost hope because they know that someone is coming for them!

They know that the Democratic Alliance will find them, fight for them and put them on the path out of poverty and into prosperity. This lost generation knows that there is a rescue mission and that we are coming for them, and we will leave no person behind.

We will not allow a lost generation to turn into a lost nation.

Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*