Perhaps more important than the Budget speech was the meeting which Minister Pravin set up with the Business sector at the end of January…
Master Builders South Africa welcomes Minister Pravin Gordhan’s tightly focused, conservative and practical 2016 Budget tabled in Parliament in February.
At a time when the South African construction industry has its back to the wall there still remains a degree of hope, as, in the words of the Minister: “Our economic imperative is to ignite inclusive growth. The Budget tabled today is guided by the NDP. It is a budget for inclusive growth. It acknowledges that investment in infrastructure has to be enhanced and sustained.”
Although there is little specific reference or direction to the single most important aspect affecting our growth as a nation: the detailed roll-out of the long promised R870 billion for the National Development Plan (NDP) infrastructure programme, there is no doubt that if Government published a clear plan detailing the roll-out of these projects over the next three years this would re-ignite the construction sector and give vigour to growth in this and other sectors.
In the Budget speech reference was made to existing energy and water projects currently in progress, such as Medupi, Kusile and a range of water infrastructure projects, such as the Lesotho Highlands project; as well as to transport and educational infrastructure projects. And we acknowledge that some municipalities are indeed quietly rolling out projects piece-meal.
But this is not enough.
Perhaps more important than the Budget speech was the meeting which Minister Pravin set up with the Business sector at the end of January:
According to IOL Business News [Rene Vollgraaff, Renee Bonorchis and Loni Prinsloo] about 60 chief executive officers representing industries ranging from banking to mining met with Gordhan for two-and-a-half hours at Nedbank’s offices in Johannesburg at the end of January.
“The point was to recognise that there is a sense of crisis,” said co-ordinator of the meeting Jabu Mabuza, chairman of Telkom and president of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA). Executives “left that meeting feeling very positive and confident that as Government and Business, we are all looking at the same thing, we are all in agreement about the urgency and the crisis nature of the situation.”
Gordhan is seeking to restore confidence in an economy hit by sliding commodity prices, weak demand from China and policy mistakes by President Jacob Zuma toward the end of last year that pushed the rand to record lows.
This meeting resulted in the establishment of an interim committee comprising Government and Business, to help fix and stabilise the economy. The committee will be co-chaired by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and president Jabu Mabuza.
As the custodians of our construction industry, and representing the Business sector in this regard, we as Master Builders South Africa, the Master Builders Associations across the country, together with their members, should take note of the ongoing calls for Business to “get involved,” that the way forward is “not the responsibility of Government alone.”
As the construction arm of Business, we need to take the bull by the horns and find new ways to make the NDP work. To bring to bear all our expertise and leverage at every level, to work more closely with Government departments such as Public Works (DPW), the National Treasury, Human Settlement, Municipalities, industry bodies, and consulting engineering firms to seek out these projects and get them rolling in formats that can work – such as Public-Private sector Partnership (PPPs).
Can we make this happen? Indeed, we must.