Kevin Hustler, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has the following advice from local business to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene:
As a nation grown accustomed to being asked to tighten our belts, we have felt the impact of government cuts on spending in non-priority areas and its emphasis on the reprioritization of budgets towards critical projects. This year’s budget speech takes place against the backdrop of sluggish economic growth, unemployment, and the negative effects of countrywide load shedding. Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has clamped down on wasteful expenditure, as detailed in his 2014 mid-term budget speech, and there is evidence of that sharper focus on priority spending at municipal, provincial, national and parastatal levels.
We believe that, for the most part, efforts have been made to keep budgets honed in on service delivery in key areas. However, we believe there is still ample room to further curb wasteful expenditure, and to shift budget priorities, especially at a local and provincial level. The Finance Minister has the unenviable task of prioritizing and balancing the budget to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
The main concern of citizens appears to be the question of whether Minister Nene will raise taxes, and specifically the possibility of VAT being raised by 1%, to narrow the budget deficit. Another top concern is the allocation of funding to reduce the critical energy deficit in South Africa.
For the Eastern Cape in particular, we would like to see more detail relating to a co-ordinated infrastructure and logistics plan for the province, aimed at stimulating very slow economic growth and assisting in creating much-needed sustainable employment.
On the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s wish list is a pronounced focus on infrastructure. With the Transnet Group having allocated sufficient funding to ports and rail in their capital expenditure over the next seven to 10 years, we believe that now is the time for a focus on road infrastructure in the province and specifically in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole.
We would like to see the Minister allocate significant funding to infrastructure projects such as the Addo Road (in support of the citrus and tourism industries), the Nooitgedacht Low Level Scheme (in recognition of its crucial role in ensuring our region’s security of water supply and protecting us through periods of drought), as well as the Fishwater Flats / Coega return effluent pipeline (to provide sufficient industrial-quality water to the Coega IDZ, to support future the mega projects slated for our region). These three projects enhance our state of readiness to harness further catalytic investments to spur growth.
Lastly, while business has noted the incentives packaged together for the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Dti, we believe that that Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay would benefit from a well- packaged suite of incentives that go above and beyond what is currently available to enable the region to secure substantial local and international investment.
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