Legislature debate on 2013 State of the Province Address

Bobby Stevenson MPL

DA Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Leader

The debate on the 2013 State of the Province Address, delivered by the Eastern Cape Premier on Friday, will take place in the Bhisho Legislature today, commencing at 14:15.

Below is the speech for the debate, by Bobby Stevenson.

We gather here today knowing that our provincial economy is not adding jobs. Our education and health care system is failing our people, local government is in crisis, our women and children do not feel safe in their homes, our roads network is in poor shape and civil protest is on the increase.

The people of this province demand of us that we create the circumstances that will put this province on a new path to prosperity and service delivery.

They also demand of us to ignite that spirit of hope that there is a better future – if you work hard and apply yourself no matter what you look like, or where you come from, the door of opportunity will open for you.

It cannot be business as usual.

It is against this background that I expected the Premier to make some bold policy announcements.

This is particularly so in the area of job opportunities. Although the list of projects you announced is welcome, the reality is this province lost 69 000 jobs in the last quarter of 2012 and year- on-year the loss was 65 000. The Eastern Cape suffered the highest job loss of any province. Our unemployment rate now stands at 29,8 while the expanded definition figure is now 46,1%. Over one million people are without work.

Yes, your commitment to the National Development plan and a Provincial Development Plan is welcome. The DA is in broad support of this plan, but you failed to endorse one of its proposals which is a youth wage subsidy.

The youth of our province are the hardest hit when it comes to unemployment. Young people face the greatest challenge because of their lack of skill and experience required by employers. If you lower the cost of hiring young people by means of the youth wage subsidy there is an incentive to do so.

The time for talking is over – it is time for action.

The Western Cape government has been chosen by the National government to pilot three crucial areas under the NDP:

* The reduction of red tape;

* The creation of Economic Development Partnership to facilitate growth and jobs; and

* An afterschool programme to keep young people involved in productive activities in the afternoon. The Western Cape Government has added a fourth component which is its version of the youth wage subsidy that will give young people a foothold on the ladder of the economy.

Why not establish a Red Tape Reduction Unit that can start to remove the obstacles to doing business whether it is at a municipal or provincial level.

These ideas are rooted in the NDP’s understanding that the government is not a job creation agency. Rather it must create the environment that attracts investors who start businesses and create jobs.

Part of that environment is the right policies, good infrastructure, service excellence and an educated and skilled population. This is what attracts entrepreneurs.

Premier, it is against this background that I expected you to crack the whip and usher in a new era of accountability.

This is necessary to ensure that there is a solid foundation for the implementation of any plans.

Corruption, poor administration, under expenditure, cadre deployment, double dipping by civil servants and a general lack of accountability makes the foundation very shaky.

Before quality education and other aspects of service delivery can become a reality those responsible for derailing it need to be brought to book.

In your 2011 SOPA you stated that the problem of additional teachers would be sorted out within six months. It is now almost two years later and the cost of this inaction is in the region of R1,8 billion per annum for the 6,500 surplus teachers.

Whereas as you lashed out against communities that illegally close schools, you failed to announce any measures that will be taken against those teachers who are holding our education system to ransom.

You also failed to announce any consequences for those managers responsible for the continued under expenditure in this province. Conditional grants are projected to underspend by R1.015 billion in this financial year.

You failed to announce any consequences for those mangers responsible for not paying businesses within thirty day.

You also failed to announce measures that will be taken against civil servants who continue to trade with the province in violation of your policy.

Your government needs to usher in a new era of accountability so that those who continually fail this province face consequences.

This is particularly so in the area of local government where no municipalities received clean audits in the 2011-2012 year. As you honestly pointed out in a speech these are battle grounds for accessing state resources perpetuating corrupt activities.

You need to crack the whip Madam Premier. There needs to be a chain of accountability flowing from you to the MEC’s through to heads of departments and line managers.

Our journey to realise true freedom in this province will never be complete while we tolerate poor performance that ensures resources for service delivery are squandered. Our journey will never be complete when those responsible for corruption go unpunished. Our journey will never be complete when trade unions resist the implementation of policy or block new ones. Our journey will never be complete until the child of Bizana has the same access to opportunity as the child of Beacon Bay.

With bold leadership and innovative policies this province can start a new journey and be the place we all dream of. Madam Premier, crack the whip.

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