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WATCH: We must get our people back into the jobs they lost, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa is presenting government's coronavirus economic recovery plan to a joint sitting of Parliament.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa said that despite the lower rate of coronavirus infections in the country, it was too soon declare victory in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking in Parliament where he was presenting the country's economic recovery plan, the president said that rather than a further easing of the current coronavirus protocols in place, South Africa needed to intensify its measures to reduce cases to less than 1,000 a day. He said that the virus would remain part of our lives for some time to come.

The president said that the World Health Organization had warned that South Africa was entering a new phase in the fight against the virus and that it required heightened measures to prevent a resurgence as seen in the rest of the world.

WATCH: Ramaphosa presents COVID-19 economic recovery plan

JOBS KEY TO RECOVERY

Ramaphosa has acknowledged that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to restore the economy to inclusive growth following the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the plan had clear objectives that included the creation of jobs, acceleration of economic reforms, fighting crime and corruption and improving the capability of the state.

The president said that job creation was at the centre of the reconstruction and economic recovery plan and would be achieved through aggressive infrastructure, investment and mass employment programmes.

"We must get our people back into the jobs they lost in the pandemic. We are determined to create more employment opportunities for those who were unemployed before the pandemic or who have given up looking for work," the president said.

Ramaphosa said that one of the interventions outlined in the plan would see the creation and support of over 800,000 work opportunities in the immediate term to respond to job losses.

Another intervention would attempt to reverse the decline of the local manufacturing sector and promote reindustrialisation through deeper levels of localisation and exports.

Ramaphosa said that large-scale job interventions driven by the state and social partners had proven effective in many countries that had faced devastation from wars and other crises.

INFRASTRUCTURE ROLLOUT

The president said that South Africans would see a massive rollout of infrastructure across the country, saying that this had the potential to stimulate investment and growth, to develop other economic sectors and to create sustainable employment both directly and indirectly.

He said that the infrastructure build programme would focus on social infrastructure such as schools, water, sanitation and housing.

To this effect, government had developed a pipeline of projects totalling R2.3 trillion and these would "completely transform the landscape of our cities, towns and rural areas".

The president added that a number of the projects were already under construction and included housing projects in the North West, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, transport projects in Polokwane and Musina, the modernisation and refurbishment of the commuter rail network and the expansion of the national rural and municipal road rehabilitation and maintenance programme, amongst others.

EXPANDING ENERGY GENERATION

Another key intervention was the securing of sufficient and reliable energy supply within two years.

Ramaphosa said that government was accelerating the implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan to provide a substantial increase in the contribution of renewable energy sources. This, he said, would bring about 11,800 MW of new generation capacity into the national power grid by 2022. He, however, said that in the immediate term, agreements would be finalised with independent power producers to connect oer 2,000MW of additional capacity from existing projects by June 2021.

The work to restructure Eskom into three entities was continuing, Ramaphosa added, and would enhance competition and ensure the sustainability of independent power producers going forward. He further added that a long-term solution to Eskom's debt burden would be finalised.

'LOCAL IS LEKKER'

While acknowledging the steady decline over many years in the country's manufacturing base, the president said that government was going to support a massive growth in local production and make South African exports much more competitive. This would be achieved by building on the work that was being done in a number of areas before the pandemic struck, such as he pledges secured from the first two South African Investment Conferences.

He said that government would enforce policies to ensure that all public infrastructure projects used locally-made materials, including steel, bricks, cement and other components. Social partners had also agreed to support a massive 'buy local' campaign for the upcoming festive season, with a particular call to support women-owned enterprises, small businesses and township enterprises.

"We call on every South African to contribute to our recovery effort by choosing to buy local goods and support local businesses. This is one way that each and every one of us can contribute to building a new economy," President Ramaphosa said.

NO POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN WORK OF LAW AGENCIES

"Decisive action against crime and corruption is essential to inclusive growth," the president said as he announced measures to strengthen law enforcement agencies to enable them to deal with corruption and fraud.

Ramaphosa assured South Africans that there would be no political interference in the work of law enforcement agencies as they rooted out corruption. The president said that government would strengthen the framework to ensure that political office-bearers in all levels of government did not do business with the state.

He said that a Joint Rapid Response Team at both a national and provincial level would respond to the illegal occupation of construction sites and also deal with criminals soliciting protection money from businesses. He added that government was also working to clamp down on the illegal economy and illicit financial flows.

A National Economic Recovery Council will provide political oversight and decision making on the plan.

Ramaphosa said that South Africa stood at a crucial turning point in the history of the country and that the ability to get the economy reignited rested with the decisions that were taken in this moment and the urgency with which the crisis was addressed.

He, though, was confident that together, South Africans would be able to build a new economy.

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