Kevin Hustler, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber had the following to say about the East Cape Provincial Budget presented this morning in Bhisho by Finance and Provincial Expenditure MEC Sakhumzi Somyo:
The MEC presents his budget in a province in great need of high levels of accountability and collaborative partnership towards a common goal of sustainable prosperity for all. As the demand for effective service delivery grows, so the need for the implementation of sustainable changes becomes ever-more urgent and important. With a substantial budget of R65 462 million allocated to the province, we hope to see targeted actions towards growing our region’s economy in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
Business and civil society support the move towards a ‘Back to Basics’ programme to ensure service delivery and strengthen leadership and governance.
The economy has suffered under significant pressures and many challenges, including labour unrest, constraints to electricity supply, and weak growth in manufacturing export markets. Our province faces unacceptably high rates of unemployment, as well as a host of socio-economic challenges that impact the ability and opportunity of citizens to contribute to the growth of the economy, especially in the rural areas of the province. We are challenged too by our citizens leaving for the greener economic pastures they perceive in other major centres around the country.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber welcomes:
The MEC’s explicit focus on ensuring the fiscal sustainability of the province.
The MEC’s stated aim of providing support for SMMEs, as well as continued investment into socio-economic infrastructure in the province.
The efficient allocation of funds for maximum developmental impact.
The initiation of procurement reforms within the Province, as well as the implementation and monitoring of austerity measures to curb excessive and unwarranted expenditure.
Initiatives by the Province to create new revenue streams for itself in order to raise sufficient funding for improving public infrastructure and growing the economy. We welcome also the technical team put together by the Office of the Premier last year to oversee and unblock infrastructure projects that have been delayed, and applaud the MEC for his commitment to including technical professionals in this team.
Prudent efforts by the province to make whatever savings it can to guard against unexpected expenses and expenditure.
The substantial additional allocation of R243 million to the province. The efforts of the Department of Health and Education, working with Provincial Treasury, are to be commended on this success.
The focus on strengthening early childhood development, improvements to school infrastructure, as well as improvements to school nutrition programmes as means of combatting the effects of poverty. We therefore welcome the implementation of the Early Childhood Development Programme.
Funding set aside for educational infrastructure in the Eastern Cape, which can be used to eradicate the mud school buildings so prevalent in the Eastern Cape.
An explicit agenda of infrastructure development and maintenance, as well as on the improvement of logistical infrastructure, to ensure our region’s competitiveness and reduce the cost of doing business within the province.
With caution, we welcome the news that Project Mthombo is included in the infrastructure projects planned for the medium to long term. Business wants to see a firm decision on Project Mthombo, in order to allow planning to take place, and for the province’s state of readiness to be assured.
Action on the Manganese Rail and Terminal, as this forms a vital part of the Chamber’s strategic lobbying efforts over the past five years.
Increased support for SMMEs through the establishment of a Provincial Cooperative Sector Framework. We look forward to the detailed unpacking of its benefits to SMMEs.
The Chamber’s wholeheartedly welcomes the MEC’s statement that the Premier’s target of public sector procurement from SMMEs will be supported where it is possible to do so.
The MEC’s acknowledge of renewable energy as a key sector for the Eastern Cape. We are looking for greater support in this regard, as well as a reduction of the red tape that frustrates ease of entry into this sector.
The focus of Operation Phakisa on the maritime sector as one that holds a great deal of potential for growth of the Eastern Cape economy. Nelson Mandela Bay is a city of two ports, and the potential of these ports should be exploited, along with the East London Port.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber is playing an active, participatory role in the Nelson Mandela Bay Maritime Cluster, and looks forward to the realisation of greater opportunities in this sector.
The focus on the transition of the Industrial Development Zones to Special Economic Zones.
Business would like to see this supplemented by a suite of attractive investment incentives to drive critical local, national and international investment.
The acknowledgement of the tourism and cultural industries as crucial growth industries that will contribute to job creation and economic growth. We welcome the funding of R796 917 million towards supporting the arts, sports and culture.
The allocation of R1.98 billion towards crop production, the operationalization of milling hubs, and a comprehensive agriculture support programme, especially in light of our province’s excellent availability of arable land. This will go some way to ensuring food security in our province.
The commitment of the MEC to destroying detrimental patterns of low productivity, low transparency and a lack of accountability within the province. Business and civil society’s need and desire for action must be acknowledged. Business and civil society want to see action and accountability, with punitive measures taken against those who transgress.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber is concerned that:
We have a massive task ahead of us as a province to raise the standard of education in the Eastern Cape from mediocre to excellent. Though the MEC claims great strides in the provision of education in the province, it is critical that spending be efficiently allocated and prioritised to maximise its impact on the children and youth of this province.
While the efforts to improve health services infrastructure in the province are to be commended, service to patients is in need of much improvement, particularly within primary healthcare. We echo the MEC’s statement that the need for qualified and skilled health professionals cannot be overemphasized.
No mention was made of vital infrastructure projects such as upgrades to the Addo road and the completion of the Nooitgedacht Low Level scheme. The Business Chamber is also disappointed to note that no mention was made of the Fishwater Flats Return Effluent Pipeline. These three projects are crucial to business in the Eastern Cape, and it is with regret that we note the disregard of provincial government to their importance.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber calls for private sector participation in reviews of the Coega and East London IDZ business models.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber believes that issues of decisive and strong leadership, accountability with consequences and sustainability should remain top of mind in every instance in driving the economy of the province forward.