Single Free State development Agency needed to boost investment!

Roy Jankielsohn MPL DA Caucus Leader in the Free State Legislature Note: the following speech was delivered during the budget Debate of the Department of Environment, Economic Affairs and Tourism during a Free State legislature sitting at Ventersburg. Honourable Deputy-Speaker The Free State has 357 000 unemployed people and the highest increase in unemployment in the country. Government is not in the business of creating jobs. They consume tax-money and do not produce it. Only private sector investment generates jobs and taxes. The communists among us attack the private sector, but experience shows us that nationalisation and communist tendencies destroy economies and nations. The Eastern block is still grappling with the legacy of communism and Cuba is impoverished. China has only started to become a superpower since it started opening up its markets and the economic and social differences between North- and South-Korea are stark. In fact the arguments put forward around these issues are as impoverished as the countries that implement them. Our crucially important social net in South Africa requires a vibrant private sector tax base to sustain it. It is as simple as that. Deputy-Speaker, the Free State has huge potential in terms of tourism and agro-processing. Some small areas of the Free State are beneficiaries of tourism, such as Clarens which is becoming known as Little Gauteng. Other areas have similar potential, but are not able to utilize it due to poor municipal services and infrastructure and a decaying provincial roads network. In places such a Dihlabeng Municipality, individuals are withdrawing their plans to invest due to the unwillingness of the municipality to assist them to obtain the land resources on which to develop new businesses and industries. Investors who want to bring money into Dihlabeng cannot even get past officials who are often arrogant during telephone conversations. In Mangaung Metro the developers who want to develop Portion 1 of Hillandale Farm 294 at Woodlands Estate have put their plans on hold due to the inability of developers to obtain the necessary support from the municipality. The development phase of this project could create over 9600 jobs and about 1000 permanent jobs could be created from this. The developers are brushed off by municipal officials and politicians. Experience tells us that officials and politicians are waiting for some kind of offer before they will assist, and because they already have lucrative jobs they do not care if the developers take their investments to other provinces. On the other hand developments, such as the proposed Judges Park in Mangaung, are almost implemented without the necessary council approval because of collusion between developers and senior municipal officials. Agriculture has much potential, especially for agri-processing and bio-fuel production. Once again our provincial roads infrastructure is hampering further development in this industry. The same applies to the production and transport industries. Many once thriving factories in the Free State have come to a standstill due to the lack of support from the provincial government and municipalities. We will watch with interest to see who is going to open the factories mentioned by the Premier in his state of the province address. Deputy-Speaker, many goods and services are sourced from outside the Free State by our provincial government. If our own provincial government are not willing to support local businesses and industries, then who will? It does not help for MEC’s to stand up in this legislature and say South Africa belongs to all who live in it, when the rest of South Africa is benefitting from a Free State Provincial Government whose own people are becoming poorer by the day. Our youth are suffering the most. The Free Market Foundation recently indicated that nationwide 52% of our population are below 25 years of age and that 62% of people between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed. With two universities and a variety of colleges in the Free State, we should have a wealth of skills to grow our economy. Our unemployed young people in the Free State deserve an environment that can generate opportunities for economic growth and jobs. In this respect Robert Wasserman recently wrote the following: “Less productive and over-priced workers in employment are increasingly being protected at the glaring expense of enthusiastic, often skilled, but always currently unemployed, potential workers. The unemployed have no lobby to represent them and their views, wishes and dreams are swept away by the loud, insistent and over-bearing voices of those enjoying the protection afforded them by current employment and union representation.” The Free State has resources, the Free State has skills, and the Free State has location. As the central South African Province we have everything required to be a success, but we do not have one key requirement, namely a government that is willing to provide the infrastructure and enabling environment to create investment that should provide opportunities for our own people. Deputy-Speaker let me briefly speak on other issues in this department. The gambling and liquor board continue to fail our people by providing licenses to establishments close to schools, churches in residential areas. Complaints by both the SAPS and residents are mostly ignored. This is contributing to crime into our communities. The Free State Development Corporation pays salaries and does very little else, while the Tourism Authority is a total waste of money, time and energy. For this reason the DA will proposes the establishment of a single Free State Economic Development Agency (FSEDA). International precedent shows that economic development strategies are best implemented by a single agency and people who have real business expertise. It is also essential to ensure value for money in our spending on economic development and proper integration between the various role-players in executing economic development strategy. The FSEDA could be mandated, among others, to manage the following: * coordination of destination marketing for major events and tourism; * investment and trade promotion; * enterprise development; * local economic development co-ordination; * skills development as a participant in a provincial skills development forum; and * co-ordinating support and liaison between various role players in government, business and education within the various sectors of the provincial economy. Deputy-Speaker, our provincial parks remain under resourced while private establishments manage to make profits. There is also too little law enforcement and control taking place over genetic aspects relating to the breeding of wildlife in the province. For example, of the approximately 5000 lions in breeding facilities in South Africa, 2500 are in the Free State. There is no stud book for lions and they can therefore never be rehabilitated back into the wild. Only one out of the 350 breeders in the province keeps a stud book. These lions are mostly bred for canned hunting and bones export to the East. Another serious issue is that animal welfare gets little recognition, even in Environmental Impact Assessments. Animals have been reduced to mere economic commodities. Regarding the exploitation and protection of our natural resources, I would like to conclude with a warning by a Native American Chief Seattle of the Davinish when he was forced to surrender to the Europeans in the nineteenth century. His words are more relevant today than any other time in the history of our planet: “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money can not be eaten.” Thank you!

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