Business and government must meet quickly to revive the country’s economic growth
Bilateral talks between business leaders and heads of government are soon needed so that difficult and key decisions can be made to kick start an economic recovery, following the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country, a said Cas Coovadia, Managing Director of Business Unity South Africa (Busa). said yesterday.
He said in a speech to Consulting Engineers South Africa 2021 virtually held Indaba, that Busa in July last year had prepared a plan to “reposition” the economy for a recovery from the pandemic, but President Cyril Ramaphosa had instead decided to have these kinds of discussions at Nedlac.
Coovadia said that while Nedlac was a good place for social dialogue, it was weak to make decisions and therefore very little progress had been made there since then on repositioning the economy, a situation it hadn’t anticipated changing soon.
He said there were three main reasons for this: the first being a lack of urgency on the part of the government, a lack of leadership to make decisions, and there were capacity issues.
“The upheavals of July (civil unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal) exacerbated the bad situation,” he said, adding that little progress would likely be made in Nedlac if the three problems were not were not resolved.
“We (the companies) haven’t had an invitation to discuss our plan with him bilaterally, and we think that’s a problem,” Coovadia said.
He said there was a “smorgasbord” of potential infrastructure projects on the table, but little progress was being made in removing them from the group, so Busa believed the government and business should have “tough talks.” “, of maybe only 10-15 delegates on each side, and decide which four to five projects with the best potential for economic generation should be implemented as a priority.
It would be in partnership between the government and the private sector.
“I can’t complain about the access to the president and the relevant ministries, but we don’t have the difficult discussions that we should be having,” Coovadia said.
Bongani Baloyi, executive mayor of the local municipality of Midvaal, said engineers need to play a more visible and active role in the local governments where they reside, as engineers are essential in improving the quality of people’s lives, and he was “virtually impossible to separate the roles of engineers and politics”.
He said his experience, however, was that many engineers had no interest in discussing political issues. They often saw the bureaucracy as a stumbling block to their work. This was made worse by the fact that many engineers sometimes lacked good verbal communication skills, Baloyi said.
Yet access and reliability to good infrastructure at the local government level that would lead to improved service delivery for people, would rely on the work of an engineer, he said.
“These negative stereotypes are an obstacle to meeting minds,” he said.