Business

‘We face the New Year with confidence and determination’

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As 2022 draws to a close, we can reflect on a tumultuous year. Like for many people around the world, this has been a tough year for many South Africans.

In the first half of the year, we experienced devastating floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West. The Russia-Ukraine conflict sent shockwaves through global energy and food markets, leading to supply chain disruptions and rising prices that continue to be keenly felt, including in South Africa. The energy crisis has caused misery for South African households and businesses.

The events of the last few years continue to cast a long shadow, with the global Covid-19 pandemic severely damaging an already struggling economy and public unrest causing loss of human life and livelihoods.

With this difficult year coming to an end and several challenges still not resolved, we need to keep closely focused on what needs to be done to make next year better.

But we have good reason to be believe things are getting better. Our great country will rise above adversity, as it has done so many times in the past.

Two years ago, when we confronted the fear and uncertainty of Covid-19, I said that if we act decisively and together, the pandemic will pass. It has indeed passed, as will the current misfortunes we are experiencing. We are more than capable of bringing about the recovery our country needs.

The recovery of our economy and society is underway.

Despite the electricity challenges, the economy is recording growth. In the third quarter of this year real GDP grew by 1.6%, and the size of the economy now exceeds pre-pandemic levels. Major industries and sources of job creation such as agriculture, transportation, construction and finance recorded increased economic output. Exports increased by 4.2% per cent.

Jobs are being created again. While we haven’t recovered all the jobs lost to the pandemic around 1.5 million new jobs were created in the last year.

A few months ago, the Presidential Employment Stimulus, reached a one million participants. More than 3 million youth are registered on the innovative SAYouth.mobi platform that connects them with prospective employers. We are revitalising the National Youth Service to create work opportunities for 50,000 young people.

For more than a decade, South Africa has been confronted with a shortage of electricity, with load shedding now a daily reality. Over the last year we have taken urgent steps to remedy this dire situation by significantly and rapidly increasing the construction of new generating capacity.

We have accelerated the procurement of renewable energy and have removed many of the regulatory hurdles to greater private investment in embedded generation. There is now a significant pipeline of embedded generation projects that are preparing for construction. We are working closely with Eskom to improve the performance of their fleet of power stations.

We are undertaking far-reaching reforms to improve the capacity and competitiveness of railways and ports, to open up our telecommunications industry and to improve the supply and pricing of water.

This year has seen several corruption-related cases enrolled in our courts and some convictions have been secured. Multi-disciplinary units that bring together a range of law enforcement agencies are identifying more implicated individuals and entities and preparing cases against them.

After close to four years, the State Capture Commission has concluded its work and presented its final reports to the President. I have submitted the government’s detailed implementation plan of the commission’s recommendations to Parliament.

These are by no means the only difficulties we face. Crime, gender-based violence, poverty and hunger continue to cause great misery.

And yet we should not make light of the change that is taking place in our country. We are seeing the pride of young people who would otherwise be unemployed being restored as they work as education assistants, conservationists and small-scale farmers.

We are seeing commuters getting onto new trains to ferry them to work on lines that were closed for years. We are seeing new factories being built and existing ones being expanded by investors who see this country as a favourable place to do business.

The road to recovery and to building a better South Africa will be a long one. But we will get there if we act decisively and we act together.

We will overcome our current challenges as surely as we did the pandemic that threatened to lay waste to our nation.

Misfortune has tested us over the past year, but these hard times have brought to the fore once more the traits for which we are known as South Africans.

We are a people of optimism, even as we brace against harsh winds. We are a people who love our country and wish for its success. We are a nation that perseveres, and that never gives up.

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