Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
Note: The following address was made during the policy and budget debate of the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism. Budget Vote 6.
Honourable Speaker, at the heart of economic development lies the opportunity to create jobs. It is an opportunity that must be exploited, and it is the only opportunity to improve the quality of life for our province’s people, and it is the opportunity to begin paving the path out of poverty.
As we speak, Mpumalanga’s unemployment rate is at 29,4%, (higher than the national average of 25,2%), with youth unemployment at a staggering 46%, and a dismal expected provincial economic growth rate of a mere 2,9%.
Honourable Speaker, considering our current economic performance, it is a reality that under ANC rule, thousands of children in our province will be born into poverty, they will grow up and live in poverty, and they will eventually die in poverty.
But, it does not have to be that way. Our province must begin exploiting the job opportunities presented by infrastructure development, large scale private investment, increased government spending, tourism economics and the endless opportunities presented by other industries.
However, to do this requires bold, creative and visionary leadership – a key factor absent in our provincial government.
We need to establish Mpumalanga as investors’ destination of choice, but to do this we must make doing business within our province easy, attractive and most importantly, corruption free.
Honourable Speaker, where the DA governs, we champion job creation through attracting investment. We stimulate economies through infrastructure development, which in turn increases access to markets and services, and it fosters entrepreneurship and creates jobs which improve the lives of the poor.
This, Honourable Speaker is in stark contrast to the ANC’s record. The Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA), which is mandated to be Mpumalanga’s primary economic stimulator and job creating entity, is the worst performing and most corrupt of all government entities. While MEGA has repeatedly failed in its core function of job creation, its mandate is repeatedly being extended.
In this light, the people of Mpumalanga, our municipalities and our councillors deserve to know exactly what MEGA’s mandate is in terms of bulk water projects, and why millions of rand in guarantees are being issued to it.
Honourable Speaker, given that MEGA has yet again received a disclaimer in the past financial year, the DA renews our call for MEGA to be disbanded. The DA would replace MEGA with a watertight public-private partnership between DEDET and functioning business chambers of commerce and industry – with a clear mandate of empowering the poor, by placing millions of rand, currently being squandered, in the hands of those truly committed to building the economy, creating jobs and eliminating poverty.
Honourable Speaker, turning to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA). Year after year we hold our breath hoping that the MTPA would be properly funded and become a viable liquid entity. Over the 2011/12 financial year the MTPA incurred a net loss of over R15 million. As we speak, its current liabilities exceed total assets by over R59 million, and the agency is indebted to over 120 companies and parastatals to the tune of R21 million.
However, if the DA was in charge, we would immediately implement an extensive programme to commercialise MTPA parks and lodges. This would immediately shift much of its assets from enormous liabilities to revenue generating facilities, resulting not only in increased financial stability, but also job creation.
So too, concessions will move non-core functions such as lodge and parks management to concessionaires, allowing the MTPA an increased ability focus on its core mandate of providing for the sustainable management and promotion of tourism and nature conservation in the province, and to ensure the optimal utilisation of natural resources.
Honourable Speaker, the DA is serious about job creation. Across our province exists an eager, youthful, energetic – yet often unskilled labour market. We also have business and industry eager to expand, keen to employ and develop skills – yet given our slow economic growth rate – are unable to do so.
The DA will combine these two critical elements: an eager labour market and eager business, with the implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy, which is our province’s fastest solution to job creation. Not only will it see business expanding, but we will experience an immediate decline in youth unemployment, coupled with skills and expertise development.
Honourable Speaker, the DA seeks to ensure that individuals make most on their potential and take control of their economic outcomes. Our economic potential is unlimited and our people are ready to get to work.
We simply need to take the lead in ensuring skills development, infrastructure and technology investment, improved productivity, the development of the Moloto Rail Corridor, the exploitation of our rich natural heritage through increased tourism – and ultimately our responsibility is not just in the redistribution of the economic pie, but the growing of the economic pie – so that all people can share in the potential and prosperity of our beautiful province.