Parties debate Cyril Ramaphosa's Economic Recovery Plan.

CHARLES MOLELE

OPPOSITION parties on Thursday unleashed an outpouring of criticism at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, saying the president merely ‘recycled’ old and ‘failed’ policies.

MPs were reacting to Ramaphosa’s plan during a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

The majority of opposition MPs said the government was good at making bold plans but weak on overcoming barriers to implementation.

The plan, presented by Ramaphosa last Thursday, is aimed at rescuing the South African economy following the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criticising the plan, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu did not hold back, Ramaphosa’s economic plan will only “serve a neo-colonial agenda”.

Shivambu whizzed: “The reason you did not mention the land question is because deep in your neo liberal thinking and conviction you do not believe South Africa must expropriate land without compensation. You are deeply happy with the status quo.”

The EFF leader added: “What type of an economic recovery plan omits the land question because land and all that it comes with is the foundation of real economic activity and expansion.”

“Nothing in your so-called economic recovery plan suggests that the black majority and Africans, in particular, must reclaim the land and gain independent access to the economy without the assistance of and reliance on white people.”

The DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis joined the chorus of disapproval of Ramaphosa’s plan, saying the president should get rid of ministers who stand in the way of progress, commit to definite timeframes for actions to be taken and refuse further bailouts for state-owned entities like the South African Airways (SAA).

The party’s interim leader John Steenhuisen shared a similar tone and dismissed Ramaphosa’s plan as “a wish list of working intentions” and a “letter to Santa”.

“We’re not trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, as has been repeatedly claimed. COVID-19 didn’t destroy our economy,” said Steenhuisen.

“We’re trying to recover from decades of bad governance and poor ANC policy. And it is disingenuous – and extremely opportunistic – to claim otherwise. Our economy was in recession, more than 10 million South Africans couldn’t find work and we’d already been relegated to junk status long before anyone had heard the word “coronavirus.”

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said the government was good with new ideas on paper but weak on implementation.

“I wonder whether corruption, which is endemic in our country, will derail the plan,” said Meshoe.

Ramaphosa hit back though, saying South Africa was not alone in experiencing an economic crisis of this depth and extent, adding that unemployment has risen across the world and nearly every economy has shrunk.

“Hon [John] Steenhuisen, had we not taken the measures that we did to contain the spread of the virus, many more lives would have been lost, the economic impact would have been worse, and we would not even be in a position to be talking about an economic recovery,” Ramaphosa shot back.

“These exceptional circumstances require nothing less than an exceptional response.”

Ramaphosa once again remarked that the plan aims to provide growth that was both inclusive and transformative, building on the common ground between government, businesses, and labour.

He stated that the economic recovery plan aims to create jobs, reindustrialise the economy, accelerate economic reforms, and crackdown on corruption, amongst others.

“The creation of jobs is central to the economic recovery plan,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan rest on four priority interventions, namely:

  1. Infrastructure rollout – Increased investment in projects to improve social development infrastructure such as schools, water, sanitation, housing, and critical road and rail systems.
  2. Expanding energy generation – The acceleration of the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP), which will provide a substantial increase in the contribution of renewable energy storage.
  3. Employment stimulus – The creation of more jobs in the public and private sectors, beginning with the employment of 300,000 people as educational support staff and large-scale job interventions by government and social partners.
  4. Industrial growth – Support of local production and an increase in exported goods, driven by localisation targets for goods in areas such as healthcare, basic consumer goods, construction materials, and transport rolling stock.

(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)

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