Budget Vote Debate: Adopting a ‘Free State First’ policy will create jobs

Roy Jankielsohn

Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature

Note: This is an extract of a speech delivered by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Roy Jankielsohn, during the Budget Votes debate in the Free State Provincial Legislature yesterday evening.

Honourable Speaker, the Free State has many natural resources, we have a willing workforce with many skills, many educational facilities, and we have location.

We have everything required to be a success, but we do not have one key requirement, the political will do take the necessary decisions to provide the infrastructure, basic services, and enabling environment that is crucial to investment. Only investment can provide opportunities for our people in the province.

Governments have tried to take over economies in various countries throughout history and all have failed. Government can at the most provide temporary relief to people with infrastructure projects and a social net.

All international examples prove that economic growth upwards of 8% provides for substantial growth in employment. A free market system that provides for the protection of property rights and an investment friendly labour regime can achieve this. We need to balance the protection the rights of workers with the need to cherish local and foreign capital that provides much needed economic growth and jobs.

The recent STATS SA General Household Survey paints a dismal picture of the Free State. Out of a population of 2.7 million people, only 514 000 cited salaries as a main source of income, while 477 000 cited social grants as the only source of income. This roughly means that only 59.6% of Free State Households are salaried, while 55.2% are either completely dependent on social assistance, or depend on grants to supplement income.

The current unemployment rate is at 40% (expanded definition). This means that out of a total possible workforce population of 1.25 million, 496 000 people are unable to find jobs. Youth unemployment in the Free State is currently at 48.2%, the highest in the country.

The Democratic Alliance has a vision for prosperous Free State Province. A Free State in which every person has an opportunity to reach his or her potential depending on their own personal efforts to do so.

This administration must adopt a ‘Free State First’ policy within the procurement process. Local small businesses will benefit from this and it will create employment. We need to embrace entrepreneurs, assist where we can and allow small businesses to flourish.

Municipalities have a role to play in contributing to economic development. The Free State requires municipalities that provide basic services and understand local economic development, we need to improve our roads infrastructure, we need to provide a safe and secure environment, and we need to provide skills for our labour force. An economic environment that levels the playing field of opportunities and encourages and sustains investment. This is not beyond the potential of the province. The DA’s vision of an Open Opportunity Society for all encapsulates this.

The Free State has the potential to turn around our ailing economy and prove to the rest of the country that we are a winning province.

Speaker, the DA will support any positive initiatives to improve the economy of our province. We simply need to implement the National Development Plan.