/ 24 February 2009

DA says Manuel must rush to save jobs

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday said Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and government’s new economic task team appeared paralysed in the face of the global downturn and must act faster to save local jobs.

The team convened by President Kgalema Motlanthe for advice on cushioning the South African economy from the crisis, had erred in calling state structures to the rescue, DA finance spokesperson Kobus Marais said.

”The task team places the burden of our response to the financial crisis on the shoulders of government — the same government that has taken so long to deliver on its most basic service delivery promises.

”In defending ourselves from this crisis we cannot afford to wait on cumbersome and inefficient government mechanisms to filter through the economy.”

Marais said instead Manuel should implement measures aimed specifically at saving jobs in the manufacturing, clothing and textile factories and other sectors by lowering labour costs through wage subsidies and corporate tax cuts.

Leaving the matter to the task team was not an option, as it planned to take a further four weeks to outline rescue packages for the most vulnerable and labour-intensive industries, he added.

”The humour that Trevor Manuel’s snide comments are able to generate won’t be anywhere near able to compensate for the loss of jobs and income that the paralysis of his government will have caused.”

Marais was referring to Manuel’s jokes last week about DA leader Helen Zille’s anti-aging botox treatments.

He said the fallout from the global downturn was already evident in South Africa, as shown by the fact that the economy shrank by 1,8% in real terms in the fourth quarter in 2008 while manufacturing dropped by 21,8%.

Economists have predicted that South Africa will shed some 250 000 jobs this year as a result of the crisis.

The representatives from labour, government and business convened by Motlanthe, last week said the main aim of its blueprint for handling the crisis was saving jobs and companies.

It is expected to announce targeted help for vulnerable industries next month. A major component of its initiative to keep the economy rolling, is pushing ahead with infrastructure spending by the state of nearly R800-billion over the next three years. — Sapa