Mayors To Play Key Role In New Growth Path

Cape Town - Improved planning and co-ordination between national and provincial governments and municipalities will be central to the New Growth Path, the Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, announced today.

Briefing the National Council of Provinces' select committee on economic development, Patel said his department will work with the various MECs of economic development and mayors to strengthen economic development planning, while the private sector will play a central role in the plan.

Patel pointed out that this planning will involve the improved placement of infrastructure projects, for example, setting up power stations, water and industries close to settlements, adding that much of the population was still concentrated in former homelands.

The minister said his department was also working with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and other development finance institutions to target investments that would boost regional economic development and create more jobs.

He said jobs would also be created through Eskom's build, electrification and municipal electricity programmes.

The Department of Economic Development would also look at addressing regulatory inefficiencies in metros and secondary centres.

Patel also said there was a need to amalgamate the various provincial and municipal small business support agencies and offerings into one central one-stop shop.

"In the long-term, we need to seek to get more of them into a single-framework agency, so that small businesses approach one place where they get mentoring, support, finance and opportunities to identify procurement possibilities," he said.

Government will also look at reviewing procurement regulations to allow provinces access to new opportunities.

Patel said he had already held a session with the MECs of economic development.

He said moves would be made to get provinces to partner to boost the agro-processing sector by getting provinces with a larger manufacturing base to work with provinces with a higher component of farming.

Patel said just over half of the population resided in Gauteng. Together with KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, these three provinces generated more than two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product, two thirds of formal-sector jobs and three quarters of manufacturing and financial or business services firms.

The share of the population employed is highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng, and lowest in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, while unemployment is highest in rural areas.

"The challenge for us is to strengthen even further the work we have started with the premiers and the MECs for economic development, to bring provinces and national government in alignment with one another," said Patel, adding that mayors of large towns and cities would also be included in economic meetings.
Business would be key to promoting entrepreneurship, technology and investment, while labour would have to make commitments on skills, wages and productivity.

Patel said training would be at the centre of the growth path - including increasing Further Education Training (FET) college intake to one million students, easier recruitment of foreign skills, artisan training targets for state-owned enterprises and a broad-based workplace training involving 10% of the workforce or 1.2m workers.

"It's really trying to work with the private sector to get much larger jobs outcomes, much larger skills outcomes," said the minister.

The New Growth Path would focus largely on rolling out new infrastructure, facilitating opportunities for rural development and African regional development, vamping up sectors such as the agro-processing, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing and tourism and expanding new areas, such as the knowledge economy and the green economy, as well as supporting co-operatives and public works programmes.

However, Patel cautioned that without a common vision and unity, it would not be possible for the country to achieve the goal of creating five million jobs by 2020, saying that the country risked simply exhausting itself in policy polarisation if South Africans could not work together.

- BuaNews