Pretoria: With only a few hours to go before President Jacob Zuma delivers the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA), business has called on the President to use the address to enhance both domestic and international business confidence.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) CEO, Neren Rau, said recent events had created a degree of uncertainty and there was a need for President Zuma to boost confidence in the country.
“Sacci expects reassurance to foreign and domestic investors on economic stability specifically relating to concerns over illegal protests, management of government expenditure and problematic mining legislation,” said Rau.
Zuma’s address to the nation comes at a time when Cabinet has just adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), which makes far-reaching proposals to direct the country’s development.
The Presidency earlier said that this year’s SONA would be the first to be delivered in the context of the NDP, which has been adopted as the high-level framework and national roadmap to which all government programmes and plans will be aligned from 2013, with a focus on implementation.
Business expects the President to speak on the status of the NDP, as well as outline the initial steps and timelines associated with government’s infrastructure programme, as infrastructure formed the basis for economic development.
Sacci also expects word on substantial attention to small and medium enterprise (SME) development.
“Proposals for an SME Ministry, under discussion since last year, further emphasised the urgent need for new and radical approaches to SME support and development,” said Rau.
Youth employment initiatives and improved corruption prevention strategies are some of the other issues business expects the President touch on.
“Corruption was the number one concern of SACCI members in a recent survey of factors inhibiting economic development. We hope that the SONA 2013 is underpinned by themes of promoting business confidence, a reduction in state intervention in the economy and a commitment to greater policy certainty,” said Rau.
Ralph Mupita, CEO of Old Mutual Emerging Markets, said the SONA should give a clear commitment to reducing the country’s infrastructure deficit.
“[The address] should also focus on a commitment to reducing the fiscal deficit as well as provide initiatives and incentives to improve savings in South Africa,” said Mupita.
While dealing with growing unemployment among the youth, the President’s address should also focus on improving the quality of education, he said.
Trade union federation Cosatu also weighed in, saying that South Africans were waiting to hear from the President how the decent job creation priority will be converted into new jobs on the ground.
“The federation also looks forward to hearing that strong action is to be taken on improving the quality of work,” said Cosatu national spokesperson Patrick Craven.
Labour was also keen to hear from the President how government will review the minimum wages of workers covered by sectoral determinations.
Earlier this month, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced that the new minimum wage for farmworkers has been pegged at R105 per day. The new determination will be effective from 1 March 2013.