I had wanted to say to hon Ndlozi, one should be careful what one asks for, because you never know what you can get!
The Minister of Finance used these teleprompters yesterday and they forgot to remove them. So I am taking advantage of what was left. It is a leftover of the Minister of Finance. Sometimes we can pick leftovers up, and they can be quite useful!
Hon Deputy Speaker, let me start off by making an announcement. I have been requested by the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, hon Nathi Mthethwa, who is currently in Japan, waiting to attend the final, to join him. I will do so after this Question and Answer Session.
[Applause.] But he requested. He said, President, I know you are answering Questions in the National Assembly. Could you kindly make the following announcement, that we would like all South Africans, tomorrow, Friday, at 13:00, to either wear the Springbok jersey if they have one, to pause for a moment of silence wherever they are, and, if they are in vehicles, to blow their horns, so that we send a very clear support message to the Springboks. [Applause.]
Naturally, we expect them to play their hearts out on behalf of all South Africans, knowing that all of us are firmly behind them and that they will lift the Webb Ellis Cup and bring it home where it belongs! [Applause.]
Hon members, the South African economy is in a dire situation. The unemployment figures announced earlier this week underline the extent and the urgency of the challenge we must confront as a nation.
As the Minister of Finance outlined in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement yesterday, the economy is
estimated to grow at 0,5% this year. This is a huge decline from the estimated growth rate.
Public finances are severely constrained and require far- reaching measures to curb expenditure.
As a country faced with this grave situation, we can do a number of things. We can either lament, or we can act. We have chosen to act, to confront these challenges, and to undertake the painstaking work required to rebuild our economy and restore it to a path of growth. That is what we have chosen to do.
The measures that we have embarked upon are in support of the vision set out in the National Development Plan, NDP, which guides the measures that government needs to take to remove race, gender and class as determinants of economic and social advancement.
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC (Contd.):
The Medium-Term Strategic Framework provides a five-year programme to advance towards the 2030 vision of the National Development Plan which all of us have embraced.
At the centre of this framework is the achievement of greater economic inclusion which we hope to achieve through growth, job growth, skills development and the reduction of poverty. This is necessary to achieve a South Africa that belongs to all the people who live in it, and where the wealth of the country is shared amongst all its people.
This means that we need to grow the economy and ensure that it benefits all South Africans, not just some South Africans. One of the ways of generating growth - as we all know - in the economy is to increase the level of investment so that we have firms and companies that can create jobs. Our drive to significantly increase investment in the economy is gathering momentum - as we heard from the Minister yesterday.
Next week, we will hold the second SA Investment Conference, where around 1 500 investors and business people will gather in Johannesburg to consider the wide range of investment opportunities in our country. We are heartened by the fact that the turnout to the investment conference has exceeded our expectations in that we have
the number of investors and people who are interested in investing in our economy for the first time and to invest further, who want to come to our conference. We are at the stage now where we are beginning to turn people away.
Vital in the effort to drive investment is our infrastructure build programme. We have said in the past that infrastructure is one of the key drivers of economic growth. It has served us well in the past and we also know how well that drove the economic growth in our country leading up to 2010, where there were cranes throughout the length and the breadth of our country and yellow equipment building and planting infrastructure into our country.
Infrastructure build decreased significantly over the past few years. It was with a view to addressing this problem that we decided to set up the Infrastructure Fund through which we aim to mobilise funds - as I once said in this very House - from various sources, both public and private, to invest in priority projects that will expand the capacity of our economy, create jobs and improve service delivery. Where do we want them to
invest? We obviously want to build bridges; we want to build dams; we want to build roads; and yes, we also want to build social infrastructure like houses, hospitals and all those types of infrastructure built-up projects.
This is taking place alongside and in support of the implementation of an enhanced industrial strategy. As part of this strategy, we are working with industries that have a high potential for growth on master plans to expand their production and contribution to job creation. During the state of the nation address I did say we now want to focus on various sectors of our economy, drill deeper down and see what level of growth we can extract from various sectors of our economy. We have started to do that. Master plans of a variety of sectors are going to be announced soon and some are already ready to be announced.
To address, in particular, the spatial distortion within our economy, which has both racial and gender dimensions, we are developing special economic zones. We are also reviving local industrial parks that have been lying derelict for quite a number of years. We are also
establishing new business centres, digital and innovation hubs.
By supporting small and medium enterprises in our cities, townships and rural areas, we are enabling the entrance of more black South Africans, but more particularly, women into productive and sustainable economic activity. I was overjoyed two days ago to be in the company of a number of women who are running their own businesses, but not just businesses - businesses in the manufacturing sector of our economy.
We have a single-minded focus on the creation of employment on a massive scale. While the economy is creating net new jobs, these are not nearly enough to match the number of people who continue to enter the job market every year. This is because the working-age population is growing much faster than the jobs that are being created in our economy, and the number of people who have now started looking for work again has increased. Many of them were discouraged and as they have seen that there is a potential for this economy to grow, they have now thronged once again to the job marketplace.
While economic growth is absolutely necessary for job creation, we have embarked on specific measures to direct young unemployed people into employment and other economic activity. This programme aims to ensure that every young person in South Africa has a place to go, is given a chance, whether in further education and training, skills development, employment, work experience, entrepreneurship or youth service. We are opening up all those channels to give young people an opportunity to get jobs and job opportunities, and get good training to be ready for the world of work.
We are currently working with our social partners on implementing the creation of jobs in line with what we decided on at the Jobs Summit, focusing on challenges and opportunities in specific industries. As you once heard, the Deputy President, Ministers and I meet our social partners every first Monday of the month to look at precisely the constraints that we can remove to ensure that we implement the Jobs Summit agreements, and we are making progress.
Our economic programmes are fundamentally directed towards the reduction of poverty. We have said that within the next decade, no person in South Africa should go hungry, and that we will eradicate poverty within a generation. This, we are focused on and this is something we want to achieve. This, more than anything else, will help to remove race, gender and class as determinants of social and economic advancement.
We are working on programmes to reduce the cost of living and I have often said the cost of living in our country is rather too high. One is not only focusing on data prices and transport but it is a whole variety of areas where the cost of living is excessively high and has an overbearing effect particularly on poor people. We are focusing on that to improve public transport and expand the asset base of the poor through accelerated land reform and the provision of well-located housing.
We are working to improve the quality and accessibility of health care for the poor and - through the introduction of the National Health Insurance, NHI - to
reduce the massive inequalities between the public and private health sectors.
The national minimum wage, which came into effect or operation in January this year, aims to raise the income of the lowest-paid workers and reduce income inequality. Ultimately, the most effective measure to reduce inequality is education and the development of the skills.
Since the advent of democracy, we have made great strides in making education accessible to black South Africans, women and the working class. Within the next decade, we want to ensure that every 10-year-old child in our country will be able to read for meaning, and have therefore called for a massive reading campaign.
This is taking place alongside the work being done to improve the quality and the outcomes of basic education; the expansion of free tertiary education to students from poor and working-class families; greater investment in Tvet colleges; and the expansion of workplace learning.
As I have said in this House before, nation-building really requires that we take measures to advance those South Africans who have been severely disadvantaged by unfair discrimination. That is why we have directed public resources towards the poor; why we have implemented employment equity and broad-based black economic empowerment policies; and why we have massively expanded access to education.
This is the focus of this government to make sure that we redress the imbalances of the past and we position those who were previously disadvantaged in a way that they can advance and have a better life in this, our beautiful South Africa. Thank you, hon Deputy Speaker. [Applause.]