The Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry, Mr Ebrahim Patel, tabled the department’s budget vote “in time of great uncertainties and crises that require it to rethink our economy and its place in the world”. However, he believes that the South African economy will battle through the storm and build a resilient economy for inclusive growth and economic transformation.

To this end, the department supports black industrialists in innovative sectors such technology and related industries. He also reported that the department’s master plans are geared toward strengthening the foundations of inclusive economic growth through its industrial strategy, which recently funded projects to produce masks and vaccines.

The life blood of an economy is investment. “The opening of Isuzu planet in Eastern Cape and the Google underwater cable are some of the investments projects that extended our country’s investment target of R1.5 trillion. We are now setting a target of R400 billion investment pledges to support our five-year investment target of R2 trillion in March 2024.”

The department has also championed R30 billion in localisation investment to support industrialisation in steel mills, pharmaceutical goods, clothing, footwear and in the establishment of a cooking oil plant in Richards Bay. Another extra R40 billion investment pledge will come from Coca Cola, WV, BMW, Isuzu and Toyota, to name but a few he said.

This will be coupled by R4 billion investment in green energy and food, and R19 billion in the automatic sector and mining supplies. He was also pleased that the South Africa export market reached R2 trillion for the first time and the department is set to initiate an R8 billion global export business to boost South Africa’s trade with other African countries.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition, Ms Judy Hermans, said: “We welcome its continued focus on industrialisation, economic transformation and the need for a capable state to foreground the importance of the impact of public policy in driving inclusive economic growth to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequalities.”

She said the committee also welcomed the Energy Action Plan, which will coordinate the drive to source alternative energy for the national grid. The committee is also pleased with the Industrial Development Corporation’s initiative to create 2 300 jobs through its industrialisation projects. Another one million jobs will be created by the department’s master plans in the automotive industry, poultry, steel, fabrics and textiles, and other industries. She also welcomed the department’s moves to deal with corruption at the National Lottery Commission.

Mr Dean McPherson of the Democratic Alliance said: “We were told of a new dawn that would grow the economy and create new jobs. It turned out to be the biggest con. South Africa’s economy grew at a rate of 1% last year and it could grow at 0% this year. “This is not what the new dawn promised us,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the department’s master plans have delivered so little, and its entities are choking businesses rather than creating an environment for them to thrive. “Research has shown that 8% of 1 500 businesses in the country are of the view that our economy is going in a wrong direction and investment conferences are theatres of the absurd. What are we selling to the world when we don’t have a clean and accountable government? When we can’t supply clean water, energy and electricity?” he asked.

The department should be at the forefront in creating new industries, but sadly it is not, said Ms Khonziwe Hlonyana of the Economic Freedom Fighters. “Twenty-nine years later no new industries have been created. Instead, the current government is closing down businesses. Many small businesses involved in incubating chickens that were funded by the government have closed down due to load shedding. This government creates and destructs the hope of small black businesses.”

The government is not capable of creating a stable and attractive trade and industry environment for businesses to thrive and a notion of a failed state is now a foregone conclusion, said Ms Zandile Majozi of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Furthermore, the impending collapse of the grid “is set to be the straw that will break the camel’s back, because load shedding is to date responsible for the seven to eight per cent contraction of our country’s gross domestic product,” she claimed.

Abel Mputing
26 May 2023