Honourable members, fellow South Africans
The single biggest challenge facing Gauteng is unemployment; the latest figures of the number of unemployed people in Gauteng sits at above 2 million people. Gauteng, once the land of gold, a province many flocked to for economic opportunities has gone backward. Unless something drastic is done, it will soon be the province of unemployment and poverty. Our unemployment rate sits above the national average at 31%.
Honourable members, unemployment in our province is not a natural phenomenon, it is man-made, it is as a result of bad leadership, incorrect policies adopted and a lot of sloganeering with little substance. We have an aptly named department of Economic Development that has done very little to develop the economy of the province in order to address the challenges of unemployment and the poverty suffered by our people.
If one was to take the annual report of the multitudes of the unemployed and underemployed people of our province, very few would believe that indeed the economy of the province is working for them. Granted, the department has on paper performed well because the bar has been set so low that the department can achieve 94% of its targets when the provincial economy is not growing and unemployment is rising.
The recently released GDP figures indicate that the economy of the country has contracted, mainly due to a decline in manufacturing, mining, Agriculture, Transport and communication. Gauteng once lead in the production of gold thus boosting the provincial economy, but the last few years have seen a decline in the output from the gold mining sector. It is no coincidence that most of our gold mines are in the worst performing municipalities of the province. There is a direct correlation between bad governance and economic output. Gauteng suffers because of bad leadership.
We have a serious anomaly in this province. The department that is tasked with economic development is performing “well” when every indicator of development is going in the opposite direction. How is it possible to have a department of economic development that is said to be performing when the economy of Gauteng is not growing?
The department through the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) is supposed to be the leading entity in enterprise development and support but for a long time it has failed to perform this important function. GEP is more internally focused rather than assisting the many entrepreneurs that Gauteng has to offer.
The targets that have been set are so low yet the department still fails to meet many of them and, in some instances, suppliers are paid before goods are delivered. The economic future of the province lies in the hands of small enterprises and they require an agency or entity that will focus on this important task. GEP continues to fail in propelling enterprises, in some instances it is even seen as a stumbling block to enterprise development.
Another area of misalignment is the low figure given to the GGDA for Foreign Direct Investment and Domestic Direct Investment. The target is set so low that it doesn’t make a dent in the unemployment crisis facing Gauteng. It is as if the figures are set so low so as to ensure people receive their bonuses rather than assisting the people of Gauteng. We must at all times remind ourselves and department officials that none of us should be here to serve our jackets; we are here to serve the people of Gauteng.
Honourable members, if we all agree that we are faced with an unemployment crisis in Gauteng, then we must also agree that the measurement tools for this department should be economic growth and a decline in the unemployment rate. The department can never be said to be performing when our people remain unemployed. There should be no bonuses paid if the unemployment rate is still rising. Let’s together work to reduce the unemployment and poverty rates amongst the people of Gauteng.