President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Jobs Summit in 2018. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Jobs Summit in 2018. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI

The latest GDP figures represent how the economy has performed for a full year under Cyril Ramaphosa as president. It grew at a dismal pace of 0.8% for 2018, down from 1.4% in 2017. To put this figure in perspective, it is estimated that the global economy grew at 3.7% over the same period.

This shows that even with the wind at his back, Ramaphosa was not able to grow the economy.

In his 2018 state of the nation address, Ramaphosa banked mostly on a jobs summit and an investment summit to generate economic growth and employment. While these summits indeed took place, their success is questionable, and they are beginning to look like yet more ANC talk-shops.

At the jobs summit, big business essentially presented investments they were already making or had in the pipeline to create economic growth and employment. Essentially, they repackaged initiatives already in place. Ironically the summit was dominated by trade unions, big business and the government, but small businesses were not really included.

At the summit Ramaphosa set a target of creating 275,000 new jobs, but the reality is that in his first year in office, 490,000 jobs were lost.

The investment summit produced wonderful headlines of big investments, but then reality set in when it was realised that most of the investments were not new ones, such as, the R400bn investment in a new infrastructure fund.

In an effort to portray investment success, in his 2019 address Ramaphosa stated that SA had attracted an inflow of R87bn in foreign direct investments (FDI) over the past two years (R17bn in 2017, and  R70bn in the first to third quarter of 2018); however, he failed to mention that R134.7bn in FDI left SA over the same period.

Beyond creating a stable environment for investment, the DA will attract investment and skills transfers from abroad by overhauling the visa regime

The reality is that Ramaphosa is not able to attract investment and this is confirmed by the most recent GDP data, which shows that investment declined for the fourth quarter in a row.

So, the two major things Ramaphosa placed his hope on have not yielded any tangible results. This is not surprising given that it was all a repackaging of existing measures. It also seems futile in an environment in which the ANC, under Ramaphosa, continues to engage detrimental policies.

This situation personifies Ramaphosa’s ANC economic policies: they are just a repackaged version of the Jacob Zuma ANC policies and the results speak for themselves.

Enough time has been wasted “watching this space”. Giving Ramaphosa’s ANC a greater mandate will, without a doubt, worsen the economic situation.

Change in policy direction

SA needs economic growth and a job in every home. The only way to achieve this is to change the policy direction, and the DA is the only party big enough to make this change happen.

The DA’s approach would place the economy on a growth trajectory of at least 3% per annum in the short run, and even higher thereafter. This approach has many facets, but for starters SA needs policy certainty. The DA, unlike the ANC, will guarantee property rights for both South Africans and foreigners, and not pursue populist and detrimental policies such as land expropriation without  compensation, or the granting of banking licences to state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Beyond creating a stable environment for investment, the DA will attract investment and skills transfers from abroad by overhauling the visa regime. We will also introduce conditional bilateral (multilateral) investment treaties (BITs) to attract investment, ensure skills development and propel industry development.

A DA national government would also introduce a jobs act to serve as an economic stimulus shock. The act will make special incentive offers open to foreign and domestic investors that meet a minimum employment threshold. In other words, a DA government will make doing business as easy as possible for companies that want to invest and create jobs in the country.

On a more domestic focus, the DA will ensure that labour unions protect the interests of workers, not their own elites. This, in short, entails stopping labour unions from damaging the economy and limiting the rights of their members. It also means recognising that the government, private sector, unions and individual employees are all important stakeholders in our economy.

The DA’s voluntary national civilian service will be a game-changer, which will give many young South Africans valuable work experience they can use to enter the labour force. The opportunity to provide a service to the country, or their community, will be in return for a stipend and the valuable work experience.

These will be in an area of the public sector where there is a clearly defined need and could possibly act as a springboard for further opportunities.

The DA is the only party big enough and with a valid suite of economic policies to make the SA economy grow and create at least one job in every home in SA.

• Lees is DA shadow finance minister.