With public finances under extreme strain because of the cost of the country’s health response to coronavirus (Covid-19) and the social and economic relief measures put in place to assist businesses and poor households, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on citizens to be innovative and focused in their plans to rebuild the economy.
In his first letter to the nation for 2021, Ramaphosa said on Monday that while most economic sectors have been able to operate again for several months, it will take some time for the economy to recover and for lost jobs to be restored.
This was owing to general lower global demand and restrictions on international travel.
“As we act together to overcome the pandemic, we will need to work together to rebuild and transform our economy. We have both the ability and the will to stimulate economic activity, grow our economy and create jobs. And to do so in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.
He further stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic has gotten worse, with new infections increasing far faster and being far higher than before, warning that 2021 will be extremely challenging, with the vaccine roll-out being the biggest task of the year.
Government will soon be rolling out a mass vaccination campaign to reduce the risk of infection across the population.
“We are working on several fronts to get vaccines, including through the global COVAX facility, the African Union initiative and through our own engagements with vaccine manufacturers,” Ramaphosa assured.
Presidential Employment Stimulus
As it will take time for economic growth to translate into private sector employment, he said, the Presidential Employment Stimulus will begin creating work opportunities.
The programme is being coordinated by the Presidency, but is being implemented by various government departments to ensure that tens of thousands of unemployed people are able to earn and learn by providing valuable social services.
The programme will, in time, include a ‘social employment’ aspect, which will see government partner with other social actors to employ people to improve food security, tackle gender-based violence and to upgrade informal settlements.
“All this work is being reinforced by an aggressive focus on those economic reforms that will have the greatest focus on growth. These include the expansion of electricity generation capacity, making our ports more efficient and competitive, improving access to affordable broadband, and improving turnaround times for water, mining and other licences. These efforts are being coordinated and monitored jointly by my office and National Treasury,” Ramaphosa further explained.