/ 22 September 2018

Gordhan: Stimulus plan all about implementation

(Sumaya Hisham)
Gordhan: "We often get criticised for having nice policies, but not being able to implement. That is an important ‘new start’ to the way we do things in government." (Sumaya Hisham)

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s newly-announced economic stimulus package has a specific focus on implementation, say economic cluster ministers Pravin Gordhan and Ebrahim Patel.

READ MORE: Infrastructure at the heart of Ramaphosa’s plan to boost the economy

Ramaphosa on Friday announced a raft of measures in an effort to reignite growth, restore investor confidence, prevent further job losses and create jobs.

Speaking to the SABC following the announcement, Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan said the plan went beyond the introduction of new policy to focus on how the policy would be successfully implemented.

“We often get criticised for having nice policies, but not being able to implement. That is an important ‘new start’ to the way we do things in government.”

He gave as an example the Infrastructure Execution Team, which, according to the president, will be established within the presidency to ensure that projects that fall within the state’s R400-billion infrastructure fund are managed efficiently, on time and within budget.

Ramaphosa had said that the South African Infrastructure Fund would reduce the “current fragmentation of infrastructure spend and ensure more efficient and effective use of resources”.

The president said the Infrastructure Execution Team would identify and quantify ‘shovel ready’ public sector projects, such as roads and dams, and engage the private sector to manage delivery.

Its members have not been named yet.

“The [economic stimulus] plan is a fresh start in that there is recognition that, unless government moves, no one is going to move in this economy. The president said we are going to lead as government, and he, in particular, is willing to lead,” Gordhan said.

“It’s not just policy. It focuses on implementation and project management. Where government lacks capacity, we will get capacity from the private sector.”

SOEs ‘will have role in investment’

Speaking specifically about where his department falls in the overall plan, Gordhan said state-owned enterprises would have a role to play in investment.

Gordhan added that hopefully SOEs would be in a position to pay dividends to government, instead of taking from government. He also said work was being done to reduce the reliance of SOEs on government guarantees.

“[…] we want SOCs (state-owned companies) to be no risk to the fiscus. None must fail in any way. They must be operationally efficient. They must make enough money to pay expenses and for investment,” he said.

In his remarks to the SABC, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said the plan could make a significant improvement to the economy before 2019’s State of the Nation Address.

Three events in October are central to this; a jobs summit, an investment conference and the mini budget on October 24, where Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will announce details of the reprioritisation in spending.

Asked if the four months to February’s state of the nation address would be enough to make a noticeable difference, Patel said South Africa had no time to waste, as jobs are needed now.

Nene, who also spoke to the SABC, said government was confident that there was fiscal space to implement the plan, through the reprioritisation of resources which would focus on key areas.

“We have gone through an excruciating process of looking at under-performing programmes,” he said.

Nene had earlier told journalists at the briefing of the stimulus package would by necessity involve trade-offs as spending is reprioritised. The details would be announced in the mini budget. — Fin24