Bilateral talks between business and government leaders are needed soon so that hard and key decisions can be made to get an economic recovery underway, following the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country, Business Unity South Africa (Busa) chief executive Cas Coovadia said yesterday.
He said in an address to the virtually held Consulting Engineers South Africa 2021 Indaba, that Busa in July last year had prepared a plan to “reposition” the economy for a recovery post pandemic, but President Cyril Ramaphosa had instead decided to have these kind of discussions at Nedlac.
Coovadia said while Nedlac was a good place for social dialogue, it was poor at making decisions, and consequently, very little progress had been made there since then on repositioning the economy, a situation he did not anticipate would change soon.
He said there were three main reasons for this: the first being a lack of urgency on the part of the government, a lack of leadership to take decisions, and there were issues of capacity.
“The July upheaval (the civil unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal) has exacerbated the bad situation,” he said, adding that little progress would likely to made at Nedlac unless the three problems were resolved.
“We (business) haven’t had an invitation to discuss our plan with him bilaterally, and we feel this is a problem,” said Coovadia.
He said there was a “smorgasbord” of potential infrastructure projects on the table, but little progress was being made in getting them off the group, so Busa believed that the government and business should have some “hard” discussions, of perhaps only 10-15 delegates on each side, and decide which four to five projects with the best economic generation potential should be implemented, as a priority.
This would be in partnership between the government and private sector.
“I can’t complain about the access to the president and the relevant ministries, but we are not having the hard discussions that we should be having,” said Coovadia.
Bongani Baloyi, the executive mayor of Midvaal Local Municipality, said engineers needed to play a more visible and active role in the local governments where they reside, as engineers were essential to enhance the quality of life of people, and it was “practically impossible to divorce the roles of engineers and politics”.
He said his experience, however, was that many engineers had no interest in discussing any matters political. They often viewed bureaucracy as stumbling blocks to their work. This was made worse by the fact that many engineers sometimes lacked good verbal communication skills, said Baloyi.
Yet the access and reliability to good infrastructure at local government level that would lead to an improvement in service delivery for people, would rely on the work of an engineer, he said.
“These negative stereotypes are a hindrance to the meeting of minds,” he said.