The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) plans to make direct representations to the National Treasury on the role that public–private partnerships (PPPs) can play in the country’s large-scale infrastructure programme, as well as to seek greater certainty on government’s approach to the implementation of such projects.
The South African government has announced plans to invest more than R860-billion on power, transport and water infrastructure, as well as housing, health and educational infrastructure, between 2012 and 2015. However, the economic infrastructure programme, in particular, is dominated by State-owned companies, such as Eskom and Transnet.
Incoming president Clive Manci indicated that business supported the construction of growth-supporting economic and social infrastructure, but that there was a lack of clarity on the role that could be played by private investors.
Greater “clarity and certainty” was also needed on the future role of PPPs, while Sacci would also seek assurances that PPP projects, on which private entities had spent significant time and resources, would not be withdrawn at the eleventh hour.
The National Treasury would be approached directly, owing to the fact that the department was responsible for the governance and administration of PPPs.
The PPP proposal was one of several resolutions likely to be pursued following Sacci’s yearly convention, which took place in Midrand on October 4 and 5.
Manci said the organisation would also be making specific proposals on how education and skills development programmes could be improved to deal with South Africa’s chronic unemployment problem and address high levels of youth unemployment.
It would also be encouraging regional chambers to engage more actively with municipalities on their local economic development plans, so as to ensure these were supportive of the creation of new enterprises and the retention of existing companies.
Sacci would also seek to leverage the chamber network to support initiatives that improved access to business finance and made it easier and less costly for the businesses to be established. It would also continue to seek labour-market reforms that were sympathetic to the needs of entrepreneurs.
Manci said that the creation of new enterprises should not be perceived as the “selfish” pursuit of capitalists, but rather as a central ingredient to job creation and, in turn, dealing with the country's “triple challenge” of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The call for greater involvement of business in helping governments deal with prevailing economic and social problems, which had deteriorated since the global financial crisis of 2008, was also supported by International Chamber of Commerce secretary-general Jean-Guy Carrier, who addressed the convention.
A failure by business to engage with these challenges, could result in governments resorting to “knee jerk” responses, such as a retreat into protectionism, or defensive immigration policies, which could have unintended and destructive outcomes.
Business, Carrier averred, had a responsibility to influence political leaders and policymakers to adopt policies and actions that improved a country’s competitiveness, which created the platform for job-generating and poverty-reducing investment.