Industry, government vows to tackle lack of growth

Craig Dodds

FROSTY relations between the government and business appear to have been put aside for the time being after a meeting between President Jacob Zuma and business leaders yesterday.

Joining hands: President Jacob Zuma is flanked by Business Unity SA's Jabu Mabuza, left, and Ndaba Ntsele, from the Black Business Council, yesterday. Credit: Gallo Images

The presidency said the parties had agreed to meet again within two months “to iron out obstacles to economic growth”.

Business leaders had approached Zuma at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, last month, asking for an opportunity to “engage with government on priorities” before Zuma’s State of the Nation address on February 14.

“The meeting focused on the importance of achieving employment-creating economic growth and on deeper co-operation between government and business,” the Presidency said.

“We… need to work very closely together, especially at this critical period when our economy is affected by the harsh European economic meltdown that refuses to go away. We have to find a way to cushion the economy, improve our growth prospects and create much-needed jobs,” Zuma told the meeting, according to the Presidency statement.

Business Unity SA president Jabu Mabuza pointed out that the National Development Plan had suggested the economy needed to grow threefold by 2030 to deal with the socio-economic challenges facing the country.

“Seventy-five percent of the jobs must come from the private sector. We are engaging our members to point out three to five constraints that make it difficult for business to triple economic growth by 2030,” he said.

The business delegation was led by Mabuza and Black Business Council president Ndaba Ntsele, while Zuma was accompanied by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and economic cabinet committee ministers.

The government delegation had sought ideas on how to get business to absorb 11 000 Further Education and Training college graduates currently sitting at home.

The meeting, at the Sefako Makgatho presidential guest house in Pretoria, follows the bitter public feud between the government and FNB over its “You Can Help” advertising campaign, which included interviews with youth critical of the government, and outrage from the government and the ANC over platinum giant Amplats’ announcement of restructuring plans that it said could lead to 14 000 job losses.