Alan Winde. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER
Alan Winde. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde must address the real economic challenges that affect the province when he addresses the legislature and province on economic recovery plans on Thursday.

The premier’s address is preceded by the tabling of the Western Cape Provincial Economic Review and Outlook 2020 and Municipal Economic Review and Outlook 2020 by finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier. The two publications are produced annually by the provincial treasury to outline economic challenges, opportunities, developments and trends. They are meant to inform responsive and data-led policy, planning and budgeting in the Western Cape.

The provincial review correctly noted that the national lockdown disrupted economic activity, with the country’s first-half economic performance constrained by the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy of the Western Cape is thus expected to grow at 1% over the next four years between 2020 and 2024, while nationally the economy is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.7% during the same period.

Employment in the Western Cape is expected to grow on average 0.6% per year between 2020 and 2025, less than the 1.5% recorded between 2015 and 2019. Workers in the informal sector faced twice the employment loss of workers in the formal sector between February and June 2020. With regard to spatial considerations of job losses, rural areas were affected more than urban areas. This is explained in the municipal socioeconomic analysis covered in the municipal review, which shows that the Cape metro has a higher Grade 10 to 12 retention rate and a higher human development index than the Western Cape.

Covid-19 and the nationwide lockdown had a detrimental effect on an already constrained economy of the Western Cape, which had not fully recovered from the persisted drought. The socioeconomic effects of Covid-19 and economic challenges are well documented in both reviews. As the premier prepares to outline the province’s plan to economic recovery, he must look at addressing the real challenges affecting the economy.

The tourism sector was hard hit by travel restrictions imposed during the lockdown; the province needs real plans to save jobs in the industry. The reckless calls to scrap the travel red list of countries considered to be high risk for the coronavirus should be met with widespread condemnation, especially with the emerging risk of a second wave of infections. The premier and those behind these calls must look at what’s happening in Europe and the US to see how foolhardy and dangerous their “business first” mantra is.

The continued water restrictions and exorbitant water tariffs cause a variety of pressures on the economy and people’s lives. Winde must tell the people when the province is going to ease the water restrictions and lower the high-water tariffs. He must outline his plans to address the ranging inequalities in the province. The Gini coefficients in the Cape metro grew from 0.608 in 2013 to 0.621 in 2019. In the Western Cape it grew from 0.602 in 2013 to 0.618. This shows that income inequalities continue to widen in the province while nationally it is declining.

The premier must take a cue from the president’s address on SA’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which foresees a new economy built on transformation and inclusive growth. The plan focuses mainly on the development of small, medium and micro enterprises through promotion of localisation and industrialisation. This will take place alongside a dedicated focus on development of rural and township economies. The plan also aims to improve the inclusion and active participation of women in the economy.

These are some of the focus areas the premier must cover in his address. Since the beginning of the sixth administration the ANC has repeatedly raised the need for localisation and development of township economies and the active participation of women and youth in the economy. The huge backlog in maintenance and repairs of public infrastructure is an opportunity to absorb low-level skills and general artisans, in particular young people who are now reported as discouraged in seeking employment.

The Western Cape has not featured much in the strategic infrastructure project list under public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille and the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission, while the pressure of urbanisation has shown increased demand for houses, schools, and other economic infrastructure needs as population increases in the City.

The old infrastructure set by apartheid government when establishing the townships as compounds is no longer coping with the demands of the day as witnessed by residents of the Cape Flats and informal settlements during cold and wet weather with leaking drains, poor sanitation, potholes and old clinics. When the premier addresses the province he must answer the question: where is the infrastructure response plan for the Cape Flats and other working class communities?

The premier’s address comes at a time when township businesses are held to ransom by extortionists who are demanding monthly fees for protection. He must tell us about his plans to address crime and corruption in the province. The people of the province want to know what happened to the DA’s R1bn-plus budget for the safety plan. Where are the 1,000 law enforcement officers that were promised as part of the plan?

We are tired of accusations and blaming the national government for everything. Winde must come with solutions. Knowing his and the DA’s record, we are building our hopes too high because they are incapable of leading our province to better times.

• Nkondlo is ANC shadow finance, economic development and tourism MEC

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