Gigaba, who said he had been taking counsel from his predecessors, Trevor Manuel, Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan on the pitfalls of the job, said there were great opportunities to expand trade between Singapore and South Africa.
“I have indicated to the deputy prime minister that as part of our next international road show, we intend to visit Singapore to meet with the Asian fund managers and exchange bilateral issues such as tax collection,” Gigaba said.
The bilateral discussion between Gigaba and Shanmugaratnam came seven months after the South African deputy president had visited Singapore to among other things attract Singaporean State Owned Enterprises to invest in South Africa through the Public Private Partnership in line with South Africa’s Nine-Point Plan.
Last year, professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that the country was second only to London as the world’s business hub.
The ranking, outlined in its Cities of Opportunity report, was based on economic and social indicators such as technological readiness, ease of doing business, and demographics and liveability. Shanmugaratnam said his country was looking at unlocking significant trade between the two countries as mutual investment opportunities were aplenty, but that investment decisions would hinge on policy clarity in South Africa.
“The fundamentals for expanding trade and investment between South Africa and Singapore are tremendous.
However, having certainty on the investment climate is important. The further people are geographically away from you, they more they look closely if the environment would be friendly to business,” Shanmugaratnam said.
According to South Africa’s government, Singapore was now the country’s second largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region. It said by 2014, bilateral trade amounted to R28.9 billion, compared to R23.5 billion recorded in 2015. Exports in 2015 amounted to R6.8 billion, while imports totalled R16.6 billion. During this period, a total of 987 jobs were created in the industrial sector, hotels and tourism, financial services and information and communication technologies.
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The government said that four foreign direct investment projects from Singapore were recorded up to March 2016, with a capital expenditure amounting to R246.06 million, creating 223 jobs.
Shanmugaranam said he was encouraged by the policy clarity Gigaba had projected thus far since his appointment as head of the national treasury and the subsequent downgrades by Standard and Poor's and Fitch. “I was struck by how clear the minister was in our discussions on how he plans to tackle the immediate, medium- and long-term issues facing the country and how he would to create a positive investment climate.”
Gigaba said one of the key discussions with the Singapore delegation was Africa’s need to have more representation at the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC). “The deputy prime minister is aware that our colleagues in Nigeria, Ethiopia, the AU as well as South Africa in the last IMFC discussions had indicated our interest in increasing our participation of Africa at the IMFC.”
The IMFC, which consists of 24 members representing 188 countries, is the direction-setting body of finance ministers for the IMF. Africa only has 2 spots on the body.