President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to deliver his state of the nation address (Sona) at parliament in Cape Town, June 20 2019. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to deliver his state of the nation address (Sona) at parliament in Cape Town, June 20 2019. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

President Cyril Ramaphosa says now is the time to focus on implementing economic reforms, but that difficult choices will be made that would not please everyone. 

“In an economy that is not growing, at a time when public finances are limited, we will not be able to do everything at one time,” he said during his state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday.

This comes as the economy suffered its biggest contraction since the global financial crisis.

Ramaphosa announced that a second investment conference will be held in November. 

He said that of the R300bn worth of investments announced at the inaugural investment conference in 2018, just more than R250bn worth of projects were in the implementation phase.

“At a time of uncertainty, the work of the investment envoys has built important bridges between government and the business community,” Ramaphosa said. 

“From their feedback, it is clear that much more still needs to be done to improve the investment climate.”

This includes reviewing the way the government co-ordinates work to resolve challenges faced by investors and reforming investment promotion policy and architecture. 

Ramaphosa says good progress has been made through the public-private growth initiative that is being championed by minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, when she was minister in the presidency, along with Roelf Meyer and Johan van Zyl.

He said the private sector had committed to investing R840bn in 43 projects over 19 sectors, and creating 155,000 jobs in the next five years.

In discussions with business, the government had committed to remove the policy impediments and accelerate implementation of these projects.

“We are urgently working on a set of priority reforms to improve the ease of doing business by consolidating and streamlining regulatory processes, automating permit and other applications, and reducing the cost of compliance,” Ramaphosa said. 

He said if SA were to be internationally competitive and attract investment, it had to address the high cost of doing business and the complicated and lengthy regulatory processes.

The country had to reach a point where no company needed to wait more than six months for a permit or licence, and new companies could be registered in a day.

Politicians spoke to the media on June 20 2019 after the second instalment of the state of the nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

SA would continue to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing port export tariffs, pursuing lowest-cost electricity generation options, and making rail transport more competitive and efficient, Ramaphosa said. 

The president said infrastructure was a critical area of investment, and the new approach to infrastructure development was based on stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors, and with local communities.

He reiterated the announcement in his previous Sona that the government had set aside R100bn to seed the infrastructure fund.

“We are working to institutionalise the fund, which will be managed by the Development Bank of SA, with the newly configured department of public works and infrastructure playing an oversight role,” Ramaphosa said.

He said there had been consultation with private investors, such as pension funds, which would participate in the infrastructure fund.

“These reforms will ensure better planning of infrastructure projects, rigorous feasibility and preparatory work, improved strategic management, impeccable execution and better governance. This will provide a much-need boost to the construction sector,” Ramaphosa said. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za