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Focus to be on saving jobs


Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel says to prepare for the post COVID-19 period, the department and its entities will focus all efforts towards saving firms and preserving jobs.

The Minister said this when he outlined the department’s spending priorities for the year ahead.

Addressing a virtual sitting of the National Assembly on Friday, Patel said post COVID-19, there can be no return to the “old normal”.

He said established industries, though critical in the economy, will not be able to create the millions of jobs required.

“To prepare for the post-COVID-19 world, we will strengthen efforts around reconstruction and recovery, including broader pacts with workers and businesses, focused on saving as many firms and jobs, identifying new opportunities, embracing digital technologies to recover and change and addressing economic inclusion with greater urgency.

“As a first step, every directorate of the [department] and every agency will prioritise saving firms and jobs, and report on a monthly basis on their impact,” he said.

Patel said where possible, the department’s entities will be asked to reallocate resources towards this goal.

He said work will be reorganised to support the District Development Model to get more bang for each rand government spends.

“We will streamline approval processes for funding from the Industrial Development Corporation [IDC], the National Empowerment Fund [NEF] and [the department] so that we avoid duplication, and consider a common back-office for smaller [departmental] agencies, covering some finance, ICT and human resource functions.

“With a smaller budget, we must draw on resources of social partners and use non-fiscal means to achieve public goals, such as competition market inquiries and the equity equivalent programme.

Patel said building on the solid progress of last year, while adapting government’s strategy in light of the historical moment created by the pandemic, each of the six priority programme areas will now be recalibrated to save lives and protect livelihoods.

He said to strengthen economic dynamism, the department will complete two new Masterplans – one for furniture, which employs 65 000 people in South Africa with the potential for many more small-scale artisans.

A separate plan would be completed for the steel industry – the foundation of industrialisation – which employs nearly 250 000 people.

“But the department’s mandate is not only to produce new Masterplans, more importantly is to ensure implementation, which will be the focus of masterplans for autos, clothing, sugar and poultry.

“Second, to help pivot the economy from its reliance on imports, to greater levels of local manufacture, we will finalise at least three new agreements on localisation and supplier development.”


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