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Economic strategy is at the heart of elections

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Johannesburg - “These elections are about the economy.”

This statement made by the DA leader and presidential candidate on Monday rings true when one looks at the economic policies and manifestoes of the different political parties this year.

The DA became the second party to unveil its economic strategy to win the elections.

The ANC tabled its economic strategy last month when it launched its election manifesto.

When Zille launched the DA’s policy on the economy, titled: The plan for growth and jobs, she made it clear that this would be the survival of the parties with strong economic policies.

The ANC promised to create 6 million work opportunities by 2019. The DA said it could grow the economy by 8 percent and create 5.8 million “real” jobs by 2025.

“The elections will be about the economy, but apart from the (Economic Freedom Fighters), there is no one else with a policy that differs from the ANC’s,” Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC Independent Economists, said.

“So if it’s the economic policies I’m looking at, I’ll vote for the ANC or EFF,” he continued.

Since its inception, the EFF has been unapologetic about its views that the state must control strategic sectors of the economy. When it comes to job creation, EFF’s policy put emphasis on protecting local industries in order to create “millions of sustainable jobs”.

Although Van Staden said the other parties did not do much to make their economic policies stand out, they too had their economic aspirations.

Agang SA said it wanted to build an economy that worked for all South Africans, not just the previously advantaged, the powerful or the well-connected.

Agang’s economic redress policy promises “a job for every citizen”.

To achieve this Agang SA wants to invest in a massive infrastructure programme, fund on-the-job training for the youth and revise certain labour laws, among other things.

The Congress of the People’s (Cope) manifesto resolutions include growing the productive base of the manufacturing and service industries to ensure that these are labour absorbent. The party also want to see restructuring of the current skills levy to ensure that the most needed skills are developed.

With unemployment standing at 24.1 percent as of the fourth quarter of last year, it is crucial for all parties to crunch some numbers relating to job creation on their manifestoes.

Even though the number of discouraged job seekers decreased in the final quarter of last year, economically inactive people rose by 159 000, according to Statistics SA figures.

The unemployment rate in South Africa has averaged 25.26 percent between 2000 and last year.

So how are the different parties going to turn this around?

The ANC promised to accelerate the roll-out of “massive” economic and social infrastructure. It said 60 percent of the promised employment would come from infrastructure and other projects for youth.

To promote industrialisation, the ANC would direct the state to procure at least 75 percent of its goods and services from local companies and support small businesses.

The DA on the other hand unveiled a 10-point plan to achieve its job creation target.

The plan includes supporting small businesses and boosting trade; managing public money better; incentivising job creation and tightening labour laws so that it is not too easy for workers to strike.

DA caucus chairman Wilmot James argued that a large number of people were locked out of the labour market because of rigidity in labour laws.

“It’s too easy to strike in this country and we should make it more difficult,” he said.

But the question is how will that sit with people who believe that certain races still hold all the cards when it comes to the role of employers in the local economy.

The EFF, on the other hand, promises through its economic policy that if it was in government, all industries would have a minimum wage, introduced through government legislation.

Agang SA’s economic policy talks about a reintroduction of two-tier bargaining at both the industry and plant level where productivity bargaining could be introduced in order to prevent labour strikes.

A striking feature in Agang’s policy is the goal to have a single economic plan, signed by all ministers and linking ministers’ salaries to their job creation achievements.

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