Calls for government to bail out tourism sector
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Durban - As the proposed extension of the financial lifeline - Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) funding to the critical KwaZulu-Natal tourism industry was widely welcomed on Tuesday, calls were also made for other ailing sectors to also receive the emergency financial injections.
The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) - which comprises government departments, labour movements, business and community organisations - is currently considering proposals to help the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is yet to make a decision on whether and how to extend Ters payments.
KZN Economic development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Ravi Pillay said he had identified tourism to be the priority sector that should be given Ters.
Faced with dire financial constraints, he said, national government had requested KZN to come up with priority sectors for relief during the Covid-19 level 3 lockdown.
“We understand there are limited resources at national level, but to the extent that we were asked to identify areas of priority, we feel that the extension of Ters for tourism will be a priority.
“We have mobilised some limited resources of our own. There were 650 small businesses in the tourism sector that were the beneficiaries of the R200 million from national government. Each got R50 000. We feel that was not enough, and we are willing to supplement that. We cannot put a figure to it because it is a matter subject to ongoing discussion,” Pillay said, adding that tourism would not survive for the next three months without any form of financial injection.
Unemployment Insurance Fund spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi said the Ters extension was a matter under discussion at Nedlac level, adding that other sectors and workers vulnerable under the current lockdown were being considered.
“An announcement will be made once an agreement has been reached,” he said.
Business for South Africa labour workstream chairperson Robert Leigh called for the widening of the net to benefit all who were affected by Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness concurred that the tourism sector was on the verge of an economic plunge, but said several other sectors were also affected.
“There are additional businesses that need further Ters support as well, such as caterers and others involved in eventing - sound engineers, decor hire people etcetera. Anyone who relies on large gatherings is battling and is unlikely to survive without some form of intervention,” she said.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Palesa Phili said: “Whilst the tourism sector has been hard hit, we believe that other sectors such as SMMEs, township businesses and informal businesses have been impacted negatively as well. As organised business, we appeal to the government to consider extending TERS to all vulnerable sectors of the economy,” she said.
IFP KZN spokesperson on economic development, Otto Kunene, agreed.
“Although the IFP believes that the tourism industry was the hardest hit, other sectors of the economy must also benefit.”
He warned: “While the IFP supports Ters, it is concerned about the reports of corruption associated with this scheme.”
Prof Ingrid Woolard, the dean of economics and management sciences at the Stellenbosch University, hailed the proposal, saying the scheme had played an important role in keeping workers and their families afloat.
“We’re now at a point where much of the economy has been able to open up, but there are still sectors – like hospitality – where the lockdown is biting. A focused, short-term extension of Ters would help a lot in terms of allowing these sectors to survive the lockdown and be ready to re-open when the pandemic is better under control,” said
University of Zululand’s economics Professor Irshad Kaseeram said the proposal to extend TERS was “rational and urgently needs to be operationalised”.