Labourers desperate for short-term work opportunities wait in vain. Pressure is on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni over plans to deal with unemployment in his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement today. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - All eyes are on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni today when he delivers his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, a day after the release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results for the third quarter, showing that South Africa’s official unemployment rate had increased by 0.1% to 29.1% compared to the second quarter of 2019 - the highest in 11 years.

Over the past quarter, the number of unemployed grew by 78000, while those in employment grew by only 62000. The number of discouraged workers increased by 44000.

Economist Mike Schussler said: “We can’t afford plans We need implementation. I believe the pressure is on the finance minister because it will take us years to solve this problem. We need to start implementing plans that can restore business confidence.”

Finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier said, “The fact that unemployment has reached a record high of 29.1% is the direct result of mismanagement of the economy, mismanagement of our public finances and mismanagement of state- owned enterprises by the national government.”

Maynier said, “We still have too many people, especially young people, who do not have jobs. The Western Cape has the lowest unemployment rate, using the expanded definition at 24.5%, of any province in South Africa.”

Meanwhile, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said it was concerned by the statistics, which showed an increase in the unemployment numbers in the domestic economy.

Seifsa economist Marique Kruger said: “The increase in unemployment numbers is concerning, especially as the unemployment dilemma continues to be difficult for policy makers and captains of industry to deal with.”

Economist Dawie Roodt said the shocking unemployment figures were the result of the government being consumed by politics, and not the economy. “It’s horrible It will just keep going up, and a number of factors are contributing to this.

“One of them is that the population growth is higher than the economic growth. The debt levels are so high that we are going to have to start cutting back on spending.”

Mboweni is expected to detail the full effect the R59billion bailout for Eskom announced in July on the government’s finances, including its borrowing levels. It is anticipated that Mboweni will include more details on how to restructure Eskom’s debt, while the naming of a new chief executive for the utility has been promised by the end of this month.

But there are other issues that Mboweni is facing, among them a looming crisis at Sars over its inability to collect sufficient tax revenue to cover the government’s burgeoning fiscal deficit.

And then there’s the laundry list of corruption and maladministration at the state-owned entities (SOEs)

Geoff Jacobs, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “I think the biggest challenge for Mboweni will be to convince his own party who has the majority in Parliament to support the direction he wants to go in.”

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