SPEECH NOTES: 2021/22 Appropriation Budget – Vote 8 Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL

Madam Speaker,
Hon Premier,
Members of the Legislature,
officials and guests, I greet you all.

It is common cause that DEDEAT is one of the most underfunded departments in the province.

Despite this, it is this Department that bears the burden of economic development, which is the most crucial developmental objective our province and our country must achieve in order to stabilise our fragile and overcommitted fiscus.

Sadly this is not reflected in either the size, or the distribution of the budget across programmes.

The primary objectives of the administrative programme are strategic leadership and management, and support services to other programmes.

Despite being a serial underspender, this programme has received a hefty 23,4% increase in budget.

This should go some way to alleviating the 28% vacancy rate, part of which is unfunded. If the funds are not allocated and used wisely for this purpose, I doubt this opportunity will arise again.

Last year, one-third of the departmental staff were non-compliant with Performance Management and Development Systems (PMDS). It is my hope that the implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning programme does not benefit cadres who are deliberately non-compliant but rather those who have earned their stripes and proven their fitness for purpose.

In DA-led administrations, employing people who are fit for purpose is one of the key ingredients to our success.

The main objective of the second programme, namely Economic Development, is to sustain economic development through partnerships. Achievement of this goal would see many flourishing, standalone, sustainable businesses that not only become employers themselves over time, but contribute taxes to the national pot.

Sadly, this programme has never really taken off.

Instead, we are bombarded with repeat findings which include poor-quality applications to the LRED fund and the unsustainability of the projects supported by the fund. The Department now intends to collaborate with COGTA to offer non-financial support to rural SMME’s through local municipalities.

Good luck with that – if I ever found one successful, non-corrupt LED project outside of DA-led municipalities in the province, I would fly to the moon.

In contrast, partnerships in economic projects in the DA-led Kouga municipality have seen small and large businesses thrive because they have not been given handouts, but rather have been enabled by a clean and growth-focussed administration. Kouga is fast becoming the country’s leading bio-economy zone and investments are pouring in. The DA doesn’t talk about getting stuff done – we get stuff done.

The Goods and Service budget for programme two was cut by a more than a third. I believe that this equates to a lost opportunity, as this saving could have been redirected to much-needed maintenance of our provincial tourism destinations, particularly as they are still underutilised due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Programme Three administers environmental policies that are cascaded from the national government in line with their policies. Cadre deployment at national level has resulted in a sketchy understanding, at best, of how vital the role of the environment is in developing sustainable economies.

In our province, environmental management regulation has been brought to its knees because the Department has failed to fill vacant posts that are essential to conserve our environment and thus ensure sustainable future fisheries, nature tourism, and environmental health.

Last year, because of high-level administrative failures, compliance and enforcement, as well as biodiversity conservation and management, limped along with a 40% vacancy rate. This is utterly unacceptable, and those accountable for this failure should have faced the consequences.

Our Compliance and enforcement officers in this province work as a skeleton crew under gruelling conditions, championing the environment and protecting our endangered species. They are thus key in ensuring a sustainable future for nature tourism and related jobs in the province. They deserve a full complement of staff to continue this vital work.

Madam Speaker, it is exciting to note that seven municipalities will benefit from an EPWP project which will see 970 new jobs created to improve waste management and the eradication of alien species. These sustainable job opportunities are exactly what our province and our environment need.

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted all of our Public Entities, and they have had to adjust their targets accordingly. However, it is pleasing to see that most of them have been able to do so and remain viable. The new CEO of the ECDC has his work cut out for him in trying to resolve the years-old ECDC property crisis, but he has experience on his side, and it is my hope that he can breathe new life into an almost dead entity.

The ELIDZ has identified some structural weaknesses in the Black Industrialists Scheme, which threaten their viability, as well as funding shortages that limit the renewable energy sector. They have shown resilience before and are able to improvise. I believe they will rise to the occasion and resolve these issues too.

The senior management team at the CDC is obviously a big fan of Bob Marley, who sang “No woman, no Cry”. This is 2021. If you have no women in your senior management structures, you WILL cry. The CDC is also struggling with limited SEZ funding for top structures, which in turn limits investor readiness. As part of their post-Covid recovery strategy, this funding must be urgently sought and secured.
It was very disappointing to note a case of fraud at the entity, which should have foolproof controls in payroll processes to prevent such crimes. My question is… will there be consequences for this crime?

Finally, Madam Speaker, the general finding around aquaculture development in the province must be heeded. There are some unscrupulous consultants in the province who would have one believe that all aquaculture projects are viable.

A full investment, infrastructure and maintenance costing exercise, juxtaposed with scaled profit projections, must be undertaken before substantial investment in such projects is made.

The DA accepts the report and supports the budget.