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SOPA lacked a big game changer

Against the background of a calm and orderly SOPA held today with the relevant decorum, Premier Phumulo Masualle painted the picture of a stable and sound province. As the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber we welcome many of the points in his address, but look forward to more detail in the upcoming provincial budget allocations, said Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler.

"We are disappointed that the big game changer for Nelson Mandela Bay, the development of the waterfront in the Port of Port Elizabeth, was not mentioned by Masualle. We call on the provincial government to urgently lobby Transnet and the National Department of Public Enterprises to expedite the move of the tank farm and manganese ore facility from the Port of Port Elizabeth to Coega,"  Hustler said.

Masualle called for greater partnerships to help improve the education sector in our province. He reflected on the high teacher attrition rate being a major challenge as well as the five underperforming districts based in the Eastern Cape.

"We call on the Premier to put a much bigger emphasis on dealing with the educational crisis in the province and to urgently raise the bar to achieve the quality education that is deserved by our learners. We welcome the fact that Masualle strongly condemned the destruction of property with reference to the #feesmustfall movement. The underlying issues behind the University crisis (#feesmustfall) have not gone away and urgently needs to be addressed. We are very concerned about the mounting debt issues which universities are facing and the impact this has on the quality of education for students," Hustler said.

The sluggish economic growth of less than 1.2% per annum is of great concern to us. The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber agrees with Masualle that we require in excess of a 5% growth target to secure sustainable jobs for the Eastern Cape. The Premier’s focus on the six pillars of the Provincial Economic Development Strategy – namely agriculture, oceans economy, tourism, renewable energy, light manufacturing and the automotive industry - is welcomed. We call on the Premier to urgently engage on these six sectors with organised business bodies to ensure an enabling environment to unlock greater successes in these sectors of the economy.

"We welcome in particular the intense focus on developing the oceans economy and unlocking new opportunities that will benefit the Eastern Cape communities along our 800km coastline. These include the establishment of a fishing harbour at Port St Johns, Transnet’s Maritime Training Centre in East London and the successful offshore bunkering services in Algoa Bay. In particular we look forward to more coordinated efforts between the private sector, government, academia and the broader community to unlock the full potential of this new economy for our region," Hustler said.

As in 2016, Premier Masualle mentioned the 16 wind farms and one solar farm worth R33.7-billion that were awarded to independent power producers in the Eastern Cape. He also mentioned the R3.5-billion Dedisa peaking power plant which became operational in 2015. These projects, along with the more recent successful securing of the 1000 MW Liquid Natural Gas fired power station at the Coega IDZ, all support the energy mix of the Eastern Cape and additional electricity security for the entire country by supporting the national grid out of Nelson Mandela Bay.

"We are pleased with the success of Coega in having signed 61 new investors with a combined investment value of R35.8-billion to date. Against this background of success by the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) in a very difficult investment climate, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber calls on national and provincial government to provide substantial support to this world-class IDZ to ensure its sustainable success and attraction of greater investments for the sake of our region," Hustler said.

On behalf of our small and medium enterprises membership base we urge the Premier to hold the various provincial departments accountable to his commitment to pay government service providers within 30 days, as well as the commitment to contracting 30% local business participation and the sourcing of local labour for government projects as non-negotiables. We are pleased that the Premier has heard the voice of the SMMEs during his outreach programmes which took place prior to the SOPA.

Items we wish to hear more detail on in the forthcoming provincial budget speeches include the following:

• Funding of local government services and infrastructure;
• Intensification of the fight against crime and corruption;
• Greater coordination and investment to enhance the tourism potential of our province;
• Closing the gaps in provincial development plan and aligning those with local economic development plans of Nelson Mandela Bay;
• Allocating of funding for provincial roads in dire need of upgrades;
• Drought mitigating interventions to be put into place to protect our scarce water resources.

In closing the Premier committed his provincial leadership to putting the citizenry first and committed to greater cooperation with business stating that they would continue to hold dynamic engagements with civil society and industry to identify workable solutions so that through unity and action our dreams will be realised. We are encouraged by these sentiments as the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and voice our commitment to working in partnership with both the provincial and local government to ensure the economic growth development and prosperity of our province.