R11-billion fund saves 20 000 jobs

The government had provided R11-billion in funds to the Department of Economic Development which had saved and created more than 20 000 jobs, minister Ebrahim Patel said on Friday.

“[I] am working hard with my colleagues in government to try to limit the loss of jobs and to help to build decent work for our people. Over the past year, we have built a new economic development department in government. It now has its own budget, offices in two cities, it has employed staff and it has begun to deliver on its responsibilities,” he said at the 11th Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) national congress in Cape Town.

In response to the economic crisis, the department had set up a number of funds and schemes to assist workers.

There was the Training Lay-off Scheme — which offered workers and employers an alternative to retrenchments — with funding of R2,9-billion.

The scheme had 6 083 workers who had participated.

The government had also set up a R6,1-billion Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) fund for companies in distress that had resulted in 17 205 jobs being created or saved in 40 companies, Patel said.

The IDC had also issued a R2-billion development bond for job-creation projects, taken up by the UIF, that had created or saved 1 204 jobs in 17 companies.

A new Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme was also announced in the Budget in February this year and R1,75-billion would be allocated to it over the next three years to improving the sector’s performance, he said.

‘Govt cannot save an industry’
“What these efforts show is that government is ready as a partner to assist the industry in difficult conditions. But we need the industry also to take steps to improve its performance.

“Government cannot save an industry, it requires a partnership that involves business and labour,” the minister said.

He said Sactwu had proved that it was prepared to deal with difficult challenges.

It now needed to debate these challenges constructively and find solutions that would protect the workers and the poor.

The challenges were not confined to one company, one product or one province, Patel said.

Patel also said there had been major changes in the global economy and these developments had provided new opportunities for South Africa.

There were 10 sectors were jobs could be created including infrastructure, the green economy, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, knowledge-based sectors, tourism and business services, the social economy, the public sector, and activities directed at economic relations with the rest of the African continent.

“We must address the de-industrialisation pressures in our economy and build a modern, dynamic economy. We recognise that we have had high economic growth since the start of democracy. But we also see the evidence of deep poverty, high levels of inequality in our country and huge numbers of unemployed people,” Patel said.

“The new growth path is intended to combine economic growth with social equity, to shift our economy step-by-step to a more labour-absorbing path and to combat the high carbon-emissions in the economy.” – Sapa

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