Zuma's SONA offered no clear direction - Cape Chamber of Commerce

Fred Jacobs says business does not respond well to uncertainty, speech would only increase their frustration

A backslapping speech with little substance

The Cape Chamber of Commerce is, on the whole, disappointed by the State of the Nation address delivered by the President this evening.

The Presidency gave no clear policy direction. While alluding to very important topics, all the speech did was increase the frustration of business that the national policy vacuum continues.

While the President was frank in admitting that we need GDP growth in excess of five per cent to create more jobs and that the economy needs to grow threefold to create the desired 11 million jobs by 2030, quite simply, business does not respond well to uncertainty. And uncertainty is what we go tonight.

How is this growth going to be achieved?

Reference was made to the Youth Wage Subsidy yet little detail was given on its implementation - something that business has repeatedly called for.

An example of the on-going policy challenges can be seen in the call for a 100% broadband internet penetration by 2020. The Department of Communications remains in a leadership malaise which has lasted for well over three years. We have an incumbent which still holds control of the backbone of our delivery networks and a majority shareholder in government who, if anything, is increasing its meddling tactics. This further frustrates the ability of business to help deliver real solutions.

Similarly, calling for the private sector to absorb 11 000 FET graduates, without addressing the skills gap that exists between graduates and what business needs, is further evidence of the naivety of government. 

A few highpoints of the speech included the call to increase teachers' salaries as well as the call for harsher action against those participating in strikes which result in damage to property. After repeated calls from business for this to happen, we are heartened that, in these instances, we have been heard.

Finally, it's all good and well for the President to call for the social partners to become more involved in the development of the future of the country, but this can only be achieved if those partners are given clear signs of overarching policy. Tonight's speech was sorely lacking in that, treading the fine line which can only be attributed to a State of the Nation address ahead of an election year.

Statement issued by the President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, Fred Jacobs, February 14 2013

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