For South Africa to prosper and create jobs, it is crucial for the private sector to start investing more in the economy, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Speaking during a post-State of the Nation address interview with the SABC at the public broadcaster’s studios in Cape Town on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the government would do all it could to support big business by removing obstacles to doing business in the country.
These included energy constraints and bureaucratic red tape, which business people had identified as hindering business development.
Ramaphosa said South Africa’s energy constraints affected all role players in the economy, “and particularly business, or the private sector, that accounts for 70% of employment in our country. For as long as energy is constrained, we are not able to build the factories, to do all that we are willing to do.”
In his State of the Nation Address last Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma identified the current low level of investment by the private sector as a key factor holding back the growth of the economy.
“We are determined to work with the private sector to remove obstacles to investment,” Zuma said, adding: “We would like to see the private sector showing as much confidence in the economy as the public sector.”
Ramaphosa said that what the President was saying was that “there has been an assertion that the private sector, at some stage, has gone on strike as far as investing further in our economy.
“What he was essentially doing was making a call on the private sector, that we as government are showing enormous confidence in the economy of our country. We would like you to do likewise and invest in the economy.”
Overcoming the ‘trust deficit’
The Deputy President said it was important for the government and business to sit around one table on a regular basis in order to eliminate the “trust deficit” that had grown between the two.
Last week, Zuma said he would soon convene the next meeting of the Presidential Business Working Group, adding that after the first meeting, held last year, “six work streams were established, and these have been discussing solutions to various obstacles to doing business in South Africa.”
The issues had also been raised by company CEOs during three working sessions he had hosted in November and December, Zuma said.
Ramaphosa said these meetings needed to continue, as one could never have enough engagements. “Relationships between people, organisations and countries are by their very nature fluid. They are not static, they are never written in stone.
“So people need to meet continuously to renew their relationships, to look at agreements that they have arrived at to see whether those are still relevant, given the changing environment in which we live.
“When the President says he wants to have a further meeting, we should not pour cold water on that initiative. We should see it as continued progress, because what it means is that people are engaging.”