Manuel: 'We all want Obama to win'

The outcome of the United States presidential election is bound to have some effects on South Africa, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on

‘There are policy debates that would have an impact and ramifications around the world,” Manuel said after his annual meeting with the Federated Unions of South Africa in Johannesburg.

As finance minister he watched policies on taxes closely, he said. The US’s enlarged debt ratio would require further borrowing and this could have an impact on what South Africa could borrow, he said.

However Manuel said that although “we all want Barack Obama to win”, South Africa was not a colony of the United States.

“I didn’t give my life for the struggle to be [part of] a colony,” he said.

He reiterated that he believed that South Africa’s banking sector was well capitalised and supervised.

Asked if he was concerned about the volatility of the rand he said: “I don’t punt exchange rates, I am the minister of finance, not a market trader.”

He described the markets as “irrational” at the moment but said that the rand had acted as a shock absorber from time to time and he had learnt not to “lose hair” over it.

If there was a lesson to be learnt from the global financial crisis, it was that there had been “fairly excessive greed” and that there needed to be rules.

In a statement, Fedusa—which start its fourth annual congress on Thursday—said that in a private session, Manuel had emphasised the need for South Africa to address the current account deficit by importing less and exporting more.

He also emphasised the importance of South Africa producing more and focusing on increasing skill levels, Fedusa said.

Manuel would not comment on whether he thought there had been irregularities at Investec Employee Benefits, which is facing a court challenge by several unions which allege mismanagement of investments purchased with their pension fund monies.

“That would be irresponsible, ” he said.

He did not believe there was any problem with the holding company Investec, and reiterated his earlier statements that the country’s banking sector was well capitalised and supervised.

Manuel said he was still waiting to hear who his deputy would be.

“I await somebody to be assigned deputy minister of finance so that I can transfer some of the load to a very enthusiastic deputy minister.”

That post will be decided on by President Kgalema Motlanthe.

In its draft resolutions, Fedusa wants the formation of a single public service to be abandoned and to let local government deliver on its Constitutional mandate.

It also wants an increase in the Expanded Public Works programme, the definition of casual or part time work to be included in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and for employment growth and real gross domestic product growth to be included in the primary constitutional mandate of the Reserve Bank. - Sapa


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