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AS expected, the National Development Plan and the economy were focal points in President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last night and he emphasised that the economy needed to grow at least threefold in order to meet job creation targets.
Among the major announcements were the imminent signing of a youth employment accord, a crackdown on violent protests and a review of the tax system, including mining royalties.
Zuma reached out to business and labour, saying to succeed in the effort to increase the economy and create jobs, they would have to work together.
“No single force acting individually can achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves,” Zuma said.
The NDP contained proposals for tackling the three challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The government would fast-track many of the projects that the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission had announced, with a focus on implementation.
Zuma said the Department of Basic Education would establish a national task team to strengthen the implementation of the maths, science and technology “strategy”.
He repeated that he wanted to see “everyone in the country realising that education is an essential service”, but said this did not involve removing the right of teachers to strike.
For its part, the government would establish a presidential remuneration commission to study the wages and conditions of service of state employees – starting with teachers.
But it would expect a “return” on this investment in the form of better teaching and management of schools.
Zuma said an accord on a package of “youth employment incentives” would be signed later this month, but he did not mention the hotly disputed youth wage subsidy by name.
He said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would commission a study of tax policies, “to make sure that we have an appropriate revenue base to support public spending”, including the anticipated review of mining royalties .
Touching on turmoil in the mining sector and violent strikes and protests, he said the rights enshrined in the constitution to “assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions” should be exercised peacefully.
Violence would not be tolerated.
The National Development Plan was “a road map to a South Africa where all will have water, electricity, sanitation, jobs, housing, public transport, adequate nutrition, education, social protection, quality health care, recreation and a clean environment”.
“The achievement of these goals has proven to be difficult in the recent past, due to the global economic recession,” said Zuma.
“Our GDP growth is expected to average at 2.5 percent, down from 3.1 percent in the previous year. We need growth rates in excess of 5 percent to create more jobs.”
On corruption, Zuma noted that the government had a dossier on “improper conduct” by large construction firms.
“We are cracking down on corruption, tender fraud and price fixing in the infrastructure programme,” he said.
He applauded the government in its fight against corruption and highlighted successes of the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
The agricultural sector was also a key area of focus with Zuma calling for “peace and stability” in the troubled sector.
Turning to the gang-rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, Zuma condemned the crime, as well as the rapes of elderly women.
Zuma also said the country planned to achieve 100 percent broadband internet penetration by 2020. 8BR