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Keynote address by Deputy President Paul Mashatile at a Business Breakfast Roundtable with Metal and Engineering Industries CEOs

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Programme Director, Ms Nuraan Alli;
SEIFSA CEO, Mr Lucio Trentini and All Board Members present;
Leaders of Business and Investors on the platform,
Executive Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Cllr S Ngodwana;
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning! 

Ladies and Gentlemen, esteemed CEOs and distinguished guests from the Metal and Engineering Industries, thank you for inviting us to this roundtable discussion this morning. 

We are pleased to have this opportunity to address you and discuss the government's view on restoring business and investors' confidence under the theme, “Restoring Business and Investor Confidence”.

As we convene here today, it is clear that our industries have recently faced severe challenges. The global economic landscape has been thrown into disarray as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Moreover, the South Africa's economic and social challenges are mounting, risking stagnation amid an unprecedented energy crisis, increasingly binding infrastructure and logistics bottlenecks, high unemployment, crime and corruption. 

These are the real problems that need real answers from society, business, and the government. We must always keep in mind the most important parts of our country, which, based on how they affect our efforts, can either help or hurt those efforts.

As a result, we must never be disheartened by our divergent approaches to overcoming these obstacles; rather, we must use dialogue such as this one to find common ground and develop an amicable strategy that will propel our nation forward.

In everything we do, we must remember that our end goal is to help our country grow by getting more people to work together in resolving the key challenges listed in the National Development Plan 2030.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I firmly believe that amidst adversity lies opportunity. 

In order to restore faith in our economy and the Metal and Engineering industries in particular, we need to come together, change with the times, and take decisive action.

As a first step, we must recognize the importance of government in creating a dependable and helpful atmosphere for businesses to flourish. We recognize the critical importance of having encouraging policies, solid infrastructure, and a receptive regulatory framework. 

Our commitment to establishing a favourable business climate remains unwavering. 

To this end, Government has already undertaken various initiatives to restore confidence and promote growth. 

We have implemented tax incentives and relief measures to alleviate the burden on businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

We are actively finding solutions to streamline regulatory processes, reduce bureaucracy, and enhance ease of doing business.
Ladies and Gentlemen

With regard to reducing bureaucracy, you will recall that President Ramaphosa last year in his State of the Nation Address introduced the Red Tape Reduction (RTR) task team.

The task team's goal is to make tangible progress in reducing excessively complex rules, regulations, procedures, and processes that stifle economic growth and job creation in key areas of the economy, and to collaborate with relevant stakeholders from government, the private sector, and community-based organizations.

The team is also supporting initiatives to simplify processes relating to property registration, cross-border trade and construction permits.

In addition, we understand the value of putting resources into infrastructure improvement. Transportation networks, power grids, and Internet access are all examples of essential infrastructure that may spur development and bring in capital. 

In this regard, we have allocated significant resources to upgrade and modernize our infrastructure.

Our infrastructure development priorities are appropriately aligned with continental and global economic development imperatives, particularly through the NDP, which is our country’s development blueprint.

For example, The National Rail Policy has been enacted as a road map for modernizing and reforming the rail industry, and it includes provisions for third-party access to the railway network.

To implement the policy commitments, the government is constructing a Transnet Roadmap, which will include reorganizing Transnet Freight Rail to appoint a new Infrastructure Manager for the rail network by October 2023. 

In the Durban and Ngqura container terminals, Transnet and private sector business partnerships encourage fresh investment in the nation's ports as well as boost their effectiveness.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Improving the country's ports will also help them get back to being some of the best ports in the world like they used to be. 

The repositioning of the Port Elizabeth Automotive Terminal for instance has already been a huge success. It has more than doubled its capacity, and exports have already gone up.

A lot of vehicles are leaving the Port Elizabeth auto port for markets outside of South Africa. Transnet is also adding to its fleet and fixing up trains that aren't being used.

Thirteen commuter train lines have been restored as a result of the PRASA restructuring, greatly lowering the cost of transportation.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited SOC (SANRAL) is still working to fulfil its duties related to funding, enhancing, managing, and maintaining the country's road system.
Road infrastructure plays a critical role in the economy. It makes it possible to transport goods and services, but it also enables movement for people to gain access to basic healthcare. 

As government we have also invested heavily on the improvement of our roads. SANRAL recently announced two big road infrastructure development projects for the Great Kei Local Municipality. Together, they will cost more than a billion rand (R1.165 billion).

Investing in projects like this one could make a big difference in the lives of a lot of people by creating jobs and making it easier for things to get from one place to another. This would also help our economy grow. 
Ladies and Gentlemen

As Government, we understand that we have a huge role to play in the advancement of our economy and changing the course of our economic trajectory, hence our implementation of the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, keeping in mind that the plan requires all society to succeed. 

As part of the Plan, reducing and ultimately ending load shedding is one of the foremost priorities of Government. 

The current issue of load shedding is being addressed through the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) and a variety of other adjustments and efforts aimed at maintaining a reliable electricity grid.

In addition, the Minister of Electricity has currently been working toward a resolution to the matter of load shedding before the end of the year. He has been engaging with various stakeholders, including businesses, to find a long-lasting solution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allowing private developers to generate electricity is one of the country's significant reforms. In this regard, there are already over 100 projects underway, with a total capacity of over 9,000 MW planned to be added over time.

Many enterprises involved in the renewable energy programme will shortly begin building on a total of 2,800 MW of new capacity. To close the immediate shortfall, Eskom will acquire emergency power that can be installed in the near future. 

The Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, and the Western Cape are seeing a disproportionate amount of new transmission lines and substation construction. Over the next 12–18 months and beyond, all of these measures will significantly increase power to the system.

South Africa already has a diverse energy mix that includes coal-fired power plants, solar, wind, gas, nuclear, hydro, and battery storage, all of which are compatible with the enhanced power output. 

We also appreciate the US Trade and Development Agency's (USTDA) R18.6 million grant, which will fund expert assistance to investigate the economic, technical, commercial, and financial viability of employing new technology to improve our transmission system. 

We are completely committed to transitioning to renewable energy sources. We cannot transition while sitting in the dark, so the pace of this change will be optimal for us, establishing a balance between economic growth and job security, social justice and environmental responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Our efforts to fight for a better South Africa are not limited to the energy crisis, but our Government is also up in arms to fight crime and corruption which are a thorn in the flesh to our democracy. 

Corruption undermines the functioning and legitimacy of institutions and processes, the rule of law and ultimately the State itself and it also damages the economy.

Therefore, the fight against crime and corruption is vital for the success of our country. As Government, we are committed to fighting corruption in all sectors of society.

Remember corruption in Government is no better than corruption in the private sector. The battle to root out corruption and strengthen the rule of law can succeed only it is taken on by the whole of society. 

We must therefore all join forces to fight this scourge.

The National Anti-Corruption Strategy is one of the necessary instruments for addressing the issues of crime and corruption. The plan outlines the steps necessary to achieve a society devoid of corruption by leveraging the most significant provisions of our Constitution, our anti-corruption legal framework, the National Development Plan, and other instruments such as international treaties. 

This whole-society effort aims for a state, business, and society that are ethical, accountable, and accountable and have high levels of integrity and respect for the rule of law. It encourages people to be involved citizens who are able to hold leaders and organizations accountable and responsible 

In order for it to be successful, an integrated approach that addresses socio-economic initiatives, the development of the criminal justice system, and the attending to of intangibles such as society's moral perspective would be required.  

By cooperating with one another, we will be able to eradicate corruption from our society and build institutions on the principles of fairness and equity. 

At the same time, Ladies and Gentlemen, fostering a skilled workforce is essential for the success of our industries. 

The Government is committed to collaborating with industry leaders and educational institutions to equip our workforce with the necessary technical skills and knowledge. 

Through vocational training programmes, apprenticeships, and continued professional development, we aim to bridge the skills gap and ensure that our industries have the expertise required to thrive in the modern world.

Additionally, we recognise that international trade and investment partnerships are vital for the success of our industries. 

We are actively engaged in promoting investment opportunities and forging stronger ties with countries that show potential for collaboration. By enhancing our exports and diversifying our markets, we can reduce our dependency on any single market and mitigate risks associated with economic volatility.

Hence we are signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which holds the potential to inject $450 billion worth of investments into the African economy and help lift between 50 and 100 million people out of poverty by 2035.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Government is committed to fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

We recognise that advancements in technology and disruptive innovation are transforming industries around the world. 

Therefore, we are investing in research and development, promoting innovation hubs, and supporting start-ups to harness the power of innovation and create a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, we stand at a crucial juncture, where restoring business and investor confidence in the Metal and Engineering industries is of paramount importance. 

The Government is fully aware of the challenges facing our industries, and we are committed to providing the necessary support and resources to ensure their growth and resilience.

As Government, we are not going to stop working until we have developed a domestic steel sector that is healthy, robustly competitive, and well-positioned for the coming decades.

We invite you all to join hands with the Government in this endeavour, as together, we can overcome any obstacle, unlock investment in the sector and emerge stronger than ever before.

I thank you.