The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber congratulates Premier Phumulo Masaulle on a calm and confidently-delivered State of the Province address for 2015. We consider the Premier’s speech to have been well-rounded, and to have made clear the need for collaboration between all key role players. The Chamber has identified a number of areas for which we offer our appreciation. Likewise, there are a number of areas which are a cause for concern.
The Business Chamber was pleased to note the intended alignment of the Provincial Development Plan with the National Development Plan. We endorse his statements that new creative partnerships between all levels of government, business and civil society are needed. We support him in this assertion, and believe that such initiatives should be driven with passion and a dedication to action, with detailed plans for the implementation of deliverables that meet the socio-economic deficit in the province. ~We commend the Premier’s focus on education and skills development, especially the spotlight on early childhood development and the strides already taken in that area. However, we believe that a lot more needs to be done to build the entire education system – especially in the areas of maths, science and technology – as a firm foundation for the development of entrepreneurs from a young age, and to ensure that individuals are work-ready for the future growth sectors upon leaving Grade 12. While the Premier noted the slight improvement in the province’s Matric results, we agree that we cannot be contented with low performance and stand by the Premier in his call for change and improvement. We urge the Department of Education to focus intensely on improvements in all districts.
We welcome, also, the focus on health and especially on the maintenance and improvements to health infrastructure in the province. The training of nurses is a vital link to enable the province to fulfil the desperate needs of hospitals and clinics in our region, but note that a lot more needs to be done to provide basic service delivery in primary healthcare.
We acknowledge the status of the agro-processing sector as one that forms a key foundation to assisting us to grow the rural economy, and we look forward to further emphasis on incentives in the Coega IDZ to encourage more of these types of businesses to develop in our region.
The Chamber welcomes, too, the renewed determination to promote the Eastern Cape as an attractive tourist destination, and support especially the training of SMMEs in this pillar of our economy. The Chamber believes that tourism is a key pillar in the economic development of our region, and that strong and effective collaboration is needed between the private sector, product owners, service providers and parastatals charged with marketing the region.
With a vision towards competitiveness and sustainability, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber is happy to note the focus on sustainable investments and the jobs that have been created through economic agencies such as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, as well as through the Coega Development Corporation. However, we still have a long way to go to overcome staggering unemployment in our region. We advocate for sustainability through incentives and an enabling environment for business. Growing the economy and the creation of jobs is not solely the responsibility of government – it is something that entrepreneurs and industry are most capable of doing. However, they must be provided with an environment conducive to business in which to operate to successfully achieve growth.
As advocates for the exploration and development of the Eastern Cape’s maritime industry, we were pleased to see the Premier unpack Operation Phakisa, and note that Coega has been identified to take on the overflows for oil rig repairs and the development of aquaculture. With its three ports and fantastic coastline, the potential of the Eastern Cape’s maritime sector must be unlocked to the benefit of the entire province.
The Business Chamber is concerned that, between the Provincial Department of Transport and SANRAL, no funding has been allocated to the upgrade of the Addo Road, which is critical to the citrus industry, despite commitments by the President and his ministerial delegation in 2014.
The Business Chamber welcomes the announcement by the Premier of the establishment of a Rapid Response Team to engage with industry on the mitigation of the negative impact of electricity outages, and further exploration of alternative energy options. We regard this as a business critical issue that needs urgent action and creative solutions, as business has suffered from uncompetitive pricing and interruptions in power supply for far too long.
We also believe that there is a compelling need for a strong suite of incentives for Nelson Mandela Bay, to enhance business competitiveness and sustainability. We look forward to engaging on what the private sector believes is required to retain and attract future investments in our region.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has long advocated for the development of the Eastern Cape as South Africa’s energy hub, and are pleased to see the Premier’s support of this. We celebrate the contribution already made by the wind farms in our region, as well as the local procurement that has taken place in the establishment of various renewable energy projects. We will continue to advocate for and support the growth of renewable energy sources.
With R1 billion made available to the province for water infrastructure, it is frustrating to see that the critical Nooitgedacht Low Level Scheme, and he FishWater Flats / Coega return effluent pipeline have not been funded. We implore the Premier and his team to re-evaluate this assessment with national government, and to recognise the critical nature of these two projects as pillars in ensuring that the region’s water infrastructure is in a state of readiness for future investments and mega projects.
We welcome a shift of focus towards the implementation of the ‘Back to basics’ campaign in municipalities across the Eastern Cape, as it aligns with the view of the Civil Society Coalition in its efforts to form partnerships at a local level in Nelson Mandela Bay. The members of the Coalition are standing by to ensure that such partnerships are primed for the inputs of an active citizenry, and look forward to the promotion of dedicated and committed two-way partnerships that deliver on key focus areas and put the needs of the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay first. We implore that all stakeholders, including business and the representatives of civil society, pursue jointly good governance, transparency and moral accountability.
As the Business Chamber, representing organised business and some of the largest employers in our region, we are committed to results-driven partnerships that include key focus areas, plans of action and implementation, and deliverables deemed important by all parties.
We state this against the backdrop of our 150 years of experience as the Business Chamber, and as members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Civil Society Coalition. We met with the President and a ministerial delegation, and have tabled our concerns at all levels of government. While we acknowledge that there has been progress in some areas of concern, in others there has been no progress at all.
We thus welcome indications from the Premier of a proactive approach, and advocate for partnerships that grow trust and accountability between all partners for the betterment of our region and province.
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