Democracy has laid the foundation for South Africa to be a better place to live in and do business, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday evening.
In a speech prepared for delivery at the Premier Business Awards held in Sandton, Johannesburg, Zuma said: “We have over the past two decades of democracy laid the foundation for South Africa to be a better place to live in and do business.
“Today, we can confidently say, we have not only a good, but a great story to tell.”
Those who were receiving awards demonstrated South Africa promoted innovation and success, with opportunities being utilised so business could grow and prosper.
“We have released the Presidency 20 Year Review document, reflecting on 20 years of democracy and freedom,” the president said.
“Where we have made mistakes in the past 20 years, we say so. Where we have done well but should still do better, we also say so.”
Through the collaboration between the government, business and labour, growth and employment have improved markedly despite the setback of the 2008 recession.
“To further improve the economic situation, the state has taken bold steps to diversify the economy and build our industrial base with a greater emphasis on labour-absorbing employment,” Zuma said.
“But more work must be done to improve investment prospects and to encourage youth employment in particular, while not neglecting older workers.”
More work also needed to be done to increase the number of small and medium enterprises.
The National Development Plan, supported by the New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan, identified what needed to be done to achieve some of these outstanding tasks and imperatives.
“Among the activities we have identified, is to continue public investment in infrastructure to facilitate economic growth,” Zuma said.
“We will also invest in the maintenance of the infrastructure especially water, electricity and related infrastructure.”
Of pivotal importance for economic growth was the need to improve energy security through accelerating the “massive” build programmes.
New opportunities were also being explored such as the development of shale gas and nuclear energy.
“Another key investment into the future that we are prioritising, is the need to further improve the quality of basic education and to substantially expand higher and further education and training,” the president said.
“We have to strengthen links in particular between companies and Further Education and Training sector, to enhance the provision of the skills required by a growing economy.”
He said the government had, in previous discussions with business, been sensitised to the need to improve the ease of doing business in South Africa.
“In this regard, we have directed departments to continue working to create a business-friendly environment,” said Zuma.
“This means that regulations should be implemented as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, without imposing unnecessary delays or red tape.” - Sapa