South Africa : Next phase of EPWP to be launched in March 2009

Durban - Phase Two of the government's Expanded Public Works Progamme (EPWP), which will be used as a mechanism to further create job opportunities and contribute to halving unemployment by 2014 is expected to be launched in March.

Addressing the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in Durban on Tuesday, Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge said R5 billion had been allocated over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to scale up the EPWP.

"The aim is to create two million full time equivalent jobs for poor and unemployed people in South Africa so as to contribute to halving unemployment by 2014, through the delivery of public and community services," he said.

The Phase Two of the programme will be launched in March 2009 and will target 2014 as per the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Implementation is to commence on 1 April 2009.

Minister Doidge affirmed that Phase Two will also have a fiscal incentive for public bodies to create EPWP employment through providing R50 for every person-day of work created, adding that this will be phased in over the next two years to all sectors, provinces and municipalities.

SALGA Chairperson Councillor Amos Masondo welcomed the initiative and pledged to continue working together with the Department of Public Works and other stakeholders to implement the Phase Two of the programme.

"We embrace the scheme to incentivise municipalities. Already, 45 municipalities have been included for indicative allocations based on their 2007/08 performance and an addition 15 municipalities are expected to become eligible in 2009/10," he said.

Councillor Masondo added that SALGA has been encouraged by the pledge to provide technical support to municipalities to increase capacity so as they are able to meet EPWP targets.

"We believe that employment creation remains the key priority of government and the EPWP is the most important vehicle for government to directly create employment for the poor," said Mr Masondo.

The EPWP, which was introduced in May 2004, ensures that it draws significant numbers of the unemployed into productive work, and that these workers gain skills while they work.

Since 2004 to 2008 the Phase One of the EPWP has created more than 950 000 job opportunities as a bid to fight poverty and underdevelopment in local communities.

In her 2008 Budget Vote, the former Public Works Minster Thoko Didiza said thousands of unemployed people have, through the programme, earned income which made it possible for them to support their families and invest in entrepreneurial activities that have become sustainable after they exited the programme. - BuaNews