South Africa ‘working to combat crisis’

3 June 2009

Delivering his first State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma said the government was working on ways of minimising the impact of the global economic crisis on South Africa, including introducing a programme of retraining workers who faced retrenchment.

“The past year has seen the global economy enter a period of crisis unprecedented in recent decades,” Zuma said in Parliament in Cape Town.

“While South Africa has not been affected to the extent that a number of other countries have, its effects are now being clearly seen in our economy. We have entered a recession.”

He said that the government, organised labour and big business had come together to discuss ways of minimising the impact of the global economic downturn, and the parties had agreed in principle on the introduction of the training layoff programme.

“Workers who would ordinarily be facing retrenchment due to economic difficulty will be kept in employment for a period of time and re-skilled,” Zuma explained.

Finding alternative solutions

Discussion on the practical details of the programme was continuing between the social partners and the institutions that would be affected by such an initiative, including the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas).

“We will support the work of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to assist employers and workers to find alternatives to retrenchments through the relevant legal process,” Zuma said.

To date, CCMA commissioners have saved over 4 000 jobs through facilitation processes, and provided ongoing advice and support to retrenched workers.

The Industrial Development Corporation has also developed a programme to fund companies in distress, while Zuma added that the government would ensure that it bought more goods and services locally, without undermining the country’s global competitiveness or pushing up costs beyond acceptable levels.

Industrial development

“Building on the successes of our industrial policy interventions, a scaled up Industrial Policy Action Plan will be developed,” Zuma said.

The lead sectors already identified are automobile, chemicals, metal fabrication, tourism, clothing and textiles as well as forestry. Attention will also be paid to services, light manufacturing and construction in the quest to create decent jobs.

As part of the second phase of the country’s Expanded Public Works Programme, the Community Work Programme will be fast-tracked, offering a minimum level of regular work to those who need it, while improving the quality of life in communities.

“The economic downturn will affect the pace at which our country is able to address the social and economic challenges it faces. But it will not alter the direction of our development,” Zuma said.

“The policy priorities that we have identified, and the plans that we placed before the electorate, remain at the core of the programme of this government.”

SAinfo reporter

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