President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the first gathering of his Presidential Economic Advisory Council at Tuynhuys in Cape Town, saying the meet comes at a difficult time for the economy.
He said South Africa’s economy is not performing at the same level as other upper middle-income countries, with many key indicators “confirming the extent of the economic malaise.”
Ramaphosa said he’s hoping the Council will direct its “efforts towards practical solutions to the complex and pressing challenges our economy faces,” and pointed to key priority areas which require urgent interventions.
The uneven income distribution and wealth patterns continue to deepen poverty levels. “Poverty is overwhelmingly black… and has a disproportionate impact on children, especially those living in rural areas, and people with little or no education.”
He added that nearly half of the population are considered chronically poor at the upper bound national poverty line.
Ramaphosa said joblessness remains stubbornly high, with the unemployment rate standing at 29 percent in the second quarter of this 2019.
“Our economy has lost its competitiveness,” he said, ranking 82nd among 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, while business confidence has reached historic lows.
The president said South Africa’s “shared prosperity demands that the right technology is combined with private and public investment to create sustainable jobs in the green economy, the care economy, infrastructure development and in townships and rural areas.”
An effective visa regime for to boost tourism and attract high skilled individuals is underway, he said, in addition to waivers being extended to visitors from several countries, as well visa requirements being simplified for countries such as China and India.
Engagement with organised business on the Ease of Doing Business Roadmap has begun, he told the advisory council.
“Invest SA has commenced work to improve key indicators such as starting a business, registering property, dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and trading across borders.”
He said an Investment Advisory Council would be appointed soon, as well as a SOE Council, to tackle the South Africa’s woeful State Owned Enterprises.
The President added that the Integrated Resource Plan, which deals with energy strategy and policy, is before Cabinet and will soon be released, while the paper detailing interventions at embattled state power utility Eskom will be tabled shortly.
Ramaphosa said the Medium Term Strategic Framework, which is government’s programme of action for the next five years, will focus on the “catalytic actions that will spur the economy into action.”
The Presidential Economic Advisory Council’s mandate is to “ensure greater coherence and consistency in the implementation of economic policy and ensure that we are better equipped to respond to changing economic circumstances.”
“The opportunity before us is to develop an economy for the future,” said Ramaphosa.