Job opportunities will come, Ramaphosa tells labour federations

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed his government to ensuring that its economic reconstruction and recovery plan benefits the thousands of people who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa made the commitment on Monday while addressing the annual Nedlac 2021 Labour School comprising the country’s three labour federations, Nactu, Cosatu and Saftu.

The conference, which began on Sunday and ends on Wednesday, is the first strategic planning session to focus on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the South African economy. Ramaphosa said his government was also prepared to enter into negotiations following calls for it to continue its support by extending programmes like the special Covid-19 grant and the special UIF Ters scheme.

Ramaphosa had earlier asked the labour federations to play an active role in their workplace to ensure that health protocols were being followed to allow most of the businesses to remain open.

He also urged the labour federations to assist in the revitalisation of the economy in order to recover the jobs that have been lost and set the country on a new path of faster, more inclusive growth.

“In October last year, we announced the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. This plan was made possible through the intensive and detailed engagements that we had at Nedlac over several months and was based on the common ground that we were able to establish. The creation of jobs is at the centre of the recovery plan.

“First, we must get our people back into the jobs they lost in the pandemic. Second, we must create more employment opportunities for those who were unemployed before the pandemic or who had given up looking for work.

“We have identified priority interventions based on their capacity to create employment on a large scale and within a relatively short time,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the government had embarked on a massive infrastructure build and maintenance programme that will achieve several economic objectives at once, saying it would stimulate economic activity and would create jobs in construction and related sectors.

“It will provide much-needed economic infrastructure, contributing to the overall capacity of our economy and the competitiveness of our businesses. It will also provide social infrastructure like housing and student accommodation, which will improve people’s living conditions.

“Importantly, we will use this infrastructure drive to promote localisation and industrialisation through measures to procure materials and services from South African suppliers,” he said.

Ramaphosa said his government was also working closely with financial institutions and multilateral development banks to find innovative ways of funding this infrastructure investment so that it was not solely reliant on the fiscus.

Ramaphosa added that given the severe constraints on public finances, “we need to use every available mechanism to remove the obstacles to private sector investment in our economy”.

“It is for this reason that we are moving with urgency to implement key economic reforms, remove regulatory barriers that increase costs and create inefficiencies in the economy, secure our energy supply, and free up digital infrastructure.

“We are also proceeding with the development of master plans in those sectors of the economy with the greatest potential for growth and job creation.”

He said these master plans were examples of social compacting in action, with all key stakeholders working together to promote the development of the industry.

“As we implement the recovery plan and as we work to contain the pandemic, we are confronted with the reality that there are millions of South Africans who are still faced with hunger and hardship.

“The effects of the pandemic continue to be felt by households, by workers and by businesses. There have been many calls for the government to continue its support by extending programmes like the special Covid-19 grant and the special UIF Ters scheme,” Ramaphosa said.

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