PARLIAMENT, February 13 (ANA) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday, decreed 2020 his government’s year of correcting the basics needed for a well-run country…

He seemed to throw his support behind a highly contested plan to use pension funds under the management of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to bail out Eskom.

Ramaphosa lauded as “historic” inconclusive talks this month at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) to find funds to slash the power utility’s debt to R254 billion, with a contested proposal on the table to use funds from the Government Employees Pension Fund.

“The social partners – trade unions, business, community and government – are committed to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a financially sustainable manner,” he said.

“They would like to do this in a manner that does not put workers’ pensions at risk and that does not compromise the integrity of the financial system.”

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FULL TEXT: 2020 State of the Nation Address

But Ramaphosa conceded that the reality was that, the inking of a deal on PIC funding would not in itself resolve the country’s energy crisis and loadshedding would continue for the foreseeable future.

“While they work to finalise this agreement, the reality is that our energy system will remain constrained until new energy generation comes on stream.”

He said government would negotiate power purchase agreements to acquire additional capacity from existing wind and solar plants as it seeks to stabilise supply.

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“Stark Reality”

Ramaphosa said the country was facing a “stark reality” with a stalled economy that had not achieved any meaningful growth for over a decade.

“Even as jobs are being created, the rate of unemployment is deepening. The recovery of our economy has stalled as persistent energy shortages have disrupted businesses and people’s lives.

“Several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are in distress, and our public finances are under severe pressure,” Ramaphosa said.

It was the citizens of the country that carried the burden, he said, as they were confronted by rising living costs, were unable to escape poverty and could not realise their potential.

“Let us frankly admit that the government cannot solve our economic challenges alone. Even if we were to marshal every single resource at our disposal, and engage on a huge expenditure of public funds, we would not alone be able to guarantee employment to the millions of people who are out of work,” he said.

But, he said, over the past two years, government, the business sector and communities had come together under the district development model, “which was fundamentally changing our approach to local development”.

“Together, over these last two years, we have worked to stabilise our economy and build a foundation for growth. We have been deliberate in rebuilding institutions and removing impediments to investment. We have acted decisively against state capture and fought back against corruption.

“We have steadily improved the reach of education, improved the quality of healthcare and tended to the basic needs of the poor.”

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But this was not enough to “free” the economy from the past “or from the mistakes we ourselves have made”.

He said the country could either “succumb” to its protracted problems or confront them with resolve and determination.

“Because we choose to confront our challenges, our immediate, vital and overarching task is to place our economy on a path of inclusive growth.

“Without growth there will be no jobs, and without jobs there will be no meaningful improvement in the lives of our people.”

Ramaphosa said critical actions would be taken in 2020 to build a capable state and place the country’s stalled economy on the path to recovery.

“This year, we fix the fundamentals. We pursue critical areas of growth. And we ensure excellence in planning and execution in government.”


Author: ANA Newswire