Pravin Gordhan under pressure to send out the right message.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was under pressure to send the right message out to rating agencies and investors that he was on track to promote growth and employment.
This week's medium-term budget policy statement, based largely on the widely accepted National Development Plan (NDP), outlines a number of government plans to make South Africa more competitive and reduce its current account and budget deficits.
For a start, South Africa has the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has been widely praised and, if it continues to proceed as it has been, is expected to translate into lucrative opportunities for expansion into the rest of Africa for local and international companies linked to the green economy.
On Wednesday, Gordhan said that 47 projects that had already been approved would be completed between 2014 and 2016, and the first 75 megawatt solar plant in the Northern Cape had been connected to the Eskom grid three months ahead of schedule.
To encourage industrial development projects, the government has introduced R10-billion tax incentives over the next three years to support investment amounting to R35-billion.
As one of the projects intended to create employment, the government had initiated the public works programme, which created 970 000 jobs and training positions last year, Gordhan said.
"The jobs fund has approved allocation of more than 60 projects, which will generate 90 000 permanent jobs and about 100 000 training opportunities over the period ahead," he said.
Other ways in which the government intends to support job creation is through the development of special economic zones, as well as the youth wage subsidy, which was put into action despite strong opposition from tripartheid partner Cosatu.
"A revised Employment Tax Incentive Bill will be formally introduced in Parliament on Thursday [October 24], which forms part of a multipronged approach to expanding work opportunities especially for young people."
He said evidence showed that if young people found work reasonably soon after leaving school, their lifetime career prospects were greatly improved.
Gordhan was also upbeat about the progress of the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme, which is intended supply support through grants or loans to encourage manufacturers to upgrade their production facilities in a way that creates and sustains employment and adds value in the short to medium term.
He said the programme has received 387 applications since the middle of 2012, with a value of R2.6-billion. As part of the country's NDP, the government was looking at expanding electricity, communications and transport capacity.
Regional infrastructure development
In support of regional infrastructure development, the South Africa-owned Development Bank of Southern Africa had provided almost R1.5-billion for road projects in Angola and committed to funding about R3-billion to energy projects in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The value of a viable small and medium-sized business sector to sustainable growth has long been highlighted, but achieving this aim has largely evaded the government.
A tax review committee was established earlier this year to look into the role the tax system can play in helping to promote inclusive economic growth, employment creation, development and financial sustainability.
Its first report on small and medium businesses is expected to be submitted by the end of this year.
Another key NDP proposal that the government is working is to provide policy certainty to encourage long-term investment in mining and other sectors..