Trade and industry minister Rob Davies. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Trade and industry minister Rob Davies. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

The article by Carol Paton, “Ramaphosa must make the right picks for last-chance cabinet” (January 29) refers. In the article Paton suggests that minister Rob Davies — and by implication the department of trade and industry — is distrustful of business.

This is a surprising assertion, given that the department’s 2017/18 annual report provides audited information on how it provides direct, financial support to business.

For example, 848 businesses were approved for investment support in the past financial year. These businesses, as a result of the financial support provided by the department,are estimated to have invested over R36bn in SA’s economy.

In addition, 656 businesses received financial assistance to participate in export marketing activities, such as participation in international trade shows, which has in turn led to growth in SA’s manufactured exports.

Moreover, the department was at the forefront of responding to the impact of the global financial crisis and introduced the manufacturing competitiveness enhancement programme which has assisted over 1,100 businesses to weather the crisis.

Similar interventions by the department have been implemented to maintain and increase investments in the automotive industry, through the automotive production and development programme, resulting in R40bn in private-sector investment over the past decade. Similar interventions were implemented to assist the clothing and textiles sector, and more recently the steel sector when global steel oversupply put our domestic steel sector at risk of closure.

Of course, the department must do more to assist business, especially during the economic downturn and indeed it has been at the forefront of arguing for a much stronger suite of support measures to assist business to mitigate the impact of: electricity price increases, weak domestic demand, high freight costs for especially exporters, and the lack of internationally comparable investment incentives in the special economic zones.

These examples demonstrate how the department — in concrete terms — partners with business to grow the SA economy, unlock investment and exports, create jobs, and support transformation.

Stephen Hanival
Chief economist: department of trade and industry