Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Pretoria: Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel says a scaled-up reconstruction plan is necessary to address the growth and jobs impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

He said this when Ministers in the Economic Cluster fielded oral questions in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Patel said the plans government put in place before the pandemic, as recently as February, while appropriate for that time, will no longer be sufficient to address the new circumstances and challenges.

“The President announced a R500 billion package of immediate actions in April to support workers, firms and vulnerable communities.

“Clearly, a scaled-up reconstruction plan will be necessary to address the jobs and growth impact of the pandemic, and building on the interventions that were put in place.”

Patel said pandemics, like wars, change and reshape societies.

He said this pandemic has had serious and deeply damaging effects on jobs, growth and transformation.

“On top of the challenges that we have been addressing before COVID-19, the pandemic also disrupted the supply lines across the world, which closed local car factories even before our lockdown started.

“It affected our pace of reindustrialization, as key programmes were slowed down. It dampened global demand for our commodities. It affected business confidence, which may discourage investment that would have otherwise taken place, and it knocked vulnerable firms and communities harder than others.”

The reconstruction plan would comprise five elements, including:

– Infrastructure-led recovery measures that focus on critical economic, social and industrial infrastructure in order to build and rebuild local supplier industries;

– An import replacement programme and more resilient supply lines to avoid the gaps and disruptions faced by global supply chains, so that the country produces PPE, medical equipment, basic foods and the other products needed domestically and on the continent;

– Deepening digitisation and the economy, bringing more small players and township enterprises into the new digital platforms and speeding up green economy measures;

– Transformation of economic structures to create more economic inclusion and stepping up the pace of transformation, with targeted measures for small businesses and black industrialists. There is also a need to address the issue of worker participation in company boards to truly transform the workplace; and

– Building opportunities on the African continent, with a greater focus on innovation and industrialisation backed by the African Continental Free Trade Area and accompanied by investment in factories and infrastructure in the continent.

R358 million to support youth, women empowered enterprises

Over a period of five years, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will scale-up its investment in youth and women empowered enterprises.

Patel said since April this year, the IDC has approved a total of R358 million to fund women and youth empowered companies.

“These include a youth-empowered business, which makes PPE masks and seven involve women-empowered businesses, including companies that make PPEs, sanitisers and disinfectants, and also companies that make products such as plastic containers for cosmetics, cleaning products, roller towels, facial tissues, serviettes and napkins.”