The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the latest depressing Gross Domestic Productivity (GDP) figures showing the economy shrunk by 0.2% in the last quarter marking a shift from the tepid growth in the previous two quarters. Whilst this is painful news, it comes as no surprise in an economy battling to cope with rampant levels of load-shedding, cable thefts and the many other crises suffocating the economy. Most worrying is the 2.2% decrease in mining and a whopping 19.9% shrinkage in agriculture, two critical sectors of the economy and major sources of employment as well as tax revenue.
Government and business must treat this as yet another alarm bell that we will not be able to make a dent in the seemingly intractable and deep socio-economic problems facing the country, especially the dangerously high unemployment rate of 41.2% unless we tackle the obstacles impeding economic growth. Government and the leadership of business need to redouble all possible efforts to ensure that the economy does not continue to stumble along from one crisis to another but ensures that it begins to grow to meet the long-sought-after 4% GDP growth rate needed if we are to actually slash the unemployment, poverty, and inequality.
Eskom must be given more support to enable it to end the interminable load-shedding. Transnet and PRASA require immediate interventions if we are to secure and rebuild our railway network and modernise our ports. Local government needs drastic overhauling if its freefall is to be halted and basic services restored. Transnet and Eskom have to be the state’s number one priorities. Decisive action is needed to turn things around. We do not have years or months but need to see real progress in weeks. Government and businesses must speed up investments in infrastructure and jobs-rich economic sectors.
Government needs to cushion the poor and increase the SRD Grant to the food poverty line and reduce the taxes on record-high petrol prices to ease the burden of rising inflation as well as ramp up the Presidential Employment Programme to accommodate at least two million active participants and help young people enter the labour market.
It is clear for all to see that we cannot continue with the business-as-usual mentality. Government and business need to treat this as the national disaster it is. We reiterate our calls for an activist government and a developmental state that is capable of intervening effectively to transform economic relations. Key to turning South Africa around is a bold and aggressive Budget in February that will rebuild the state, stimulate the economy, provide relief for workers and employment opportunities for the youth.
We simply cannot afford to continue to live on hope and prayer.
Issued by COSATU
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