13 May 2010
In a week that marked exactly a year since assuming the Presidency, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament that his administration was succeeding on service delivery and changing the attitude and style of government.
“We can already feel the sense of urgency in all government spheres. Gradually, we are succeeding in changing the attitude and style of government and transforming the way government relates to citizens,” he said, while delivering the Presidency’s Budget Vote in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Zuma said there was visible progress in some identified priorities, such as health, poverty eradication, job creation, quality education, rural development and the fight against crime and corruption.
He pointed to the recent launch of massive campaigns on HIV, TB and measles, the increased roll out of HIV treatment and prevention measures as well as the testing campaign that saw him, among other senior government officials, get tested for HIV.
Shifting his focus to education, Zuma said the revitalisation of the country’s education system was progressing well adding the Departments of Basic as well as Higher Education and Training have directed attention on improving performance in schools and the training of a skilled workforce.
Shortly after assuming office last year, Zuma announced a split in the education portfolio into two separate departments in a bid to bring more focus in the system.
Several changes were made in the schooling system such as the introduction of compulsory numeracy and literacy tests for learners from Grades 6 to 9.
The government has also allocated about R3.2-billion in infrastructure funds to universities over the next two financial years. Zuma said the money will help increase the production of graduates in the critical areas of engineering, life and physical sciences, teacher education and health sciences.
In addition, he said, work towards the establishment of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape will continue this financial year, in order to further expand access to higher education.
“We are doing this in recognition of the fact that nearly 70% of all South Africans are under the age of 35. We have to invest in our youth, in our future,” Zuma said.
Recovery from recession
Zuma further said all indications are that South Africa was recovering from the recession that saw thousands of people losing their jobs. “Our economy is growing and investors are showing confidence in our country. The government responded swiftly to the recession and a lot has been achieved under the auspices of the framework for South Africa’s response to the international economic crisis,” he said.
Zuma said the government was engaged in a number of activities to respond to communities in distress and to assist vulnerable workers and troubled enterprises and sectors of the economy.
Work has also been taking place through the Commission for Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration (CCMA) to strengthen efforts to avoid retrenchments, he said.
To protect the poor and jobless from inflated food prices, Zuma said the government had directed the competition authorities to speed up their investigations into price-fixing and cartels in the food supply chain. As a result, a number of implicated companies have been prosecuted.
He was also confident that the Industrial Policy Action Plan – which seeks to grow industrial sectors to retain existing jobs and to create new decent jobs – launched by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davis earlier this year would produce a concrete plan to significantly expand South African industrial capacity.
Other measures that enable job creation would include stepping up the implementation of the expanded public works programme, investing in further education and skills development and encouraging small business development and entrepreneurship.
“We now know what works and what needs to be corrected, and what needs to be strengthened,” said Zuma who also announced the names of the people to serve on a presidential review committee of state-owned enterprises.
The committee will identify challenges faced by these entities and recommend possible changes in their running.