President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa's government has made changes to visa regulations for tourists and highly skilled professionals, availed financial support for black farmers and black industrialists and upgraded industrial parks as part of efforts to secure economic growth and deal with unemployment, his office said on Friday.

In a statement, the presidency said Ramaphosa had highlighted these and other efforts during his appearance in Parliament on Thursday to give oral answers to legislators' questions, the first time he was doing so since his election in May.

"President Ramaphosa reaffirmed economic growth and job creation as the apex priority of the sixth administration. The president provided evidence of implementation of the economic stimulus and recovery plan introduced by government in 2018 to shore up the economy," the presidency said.

Ramaphosa told Parliament that a recent intervention in this direction was the designation by the department of home affairs of a number of countries that would receive visa waivers, among them countries with high tourism potential like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. 

The department of home affairs is also working with the department of higher education and training towards refining a list of critical skills that will inform future visa regulations.

Ramaphosa also told the national assembly that measures were in place to safeguard key agricultural sectors like the poultry industry, protecting local jobs, the presidency said.

The Ports Authority of South Africa had reduced tariffs by six percent in late 2018 while also decreasing container and automotive cargo dues, making it easier to do business in the country.

Ramaphosa said R3.9 billion funding had been released to support black commercial farmers through the state Land Bank.

Between September 2018 and July 2019, the Industrial Development Corporation had approved about R14 billion in infrastructure funding for roads, human settlements, water infrastructure, schools, student accomodation and public transport.

The presidency said Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza were set to convene regular meetings with the National Economic Development and Labour Council to review progress in implementing commitments made at a job summit last year.

To improve the levels of investment in the economy, the government would host a second investment conference on November 5-7, following on the first one held in 2018.

"Of the R300 billion committed at the inaugural investment conference, around R250 billion worth of projects are in the implementation phase," the presidency said.

"There has been a significant turnaround in flows of foreign direct investment, surging from R26.8 billion in 2017 to R70.7 billion in 2018."

African News Agency/ANA