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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

‘Backboneless’ Ramaphosa’s Sona irks economists

However, despite the criticism, farmers generally welcomed the address.

The debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address (Sona) is to be held in parliament today, but critics continue to hit at him for lowering the bar to make it easy for him to meet his own targets.

Economist Duma Gqubule believes Ramaphosa’s speech fell short on realistic targets.

Gqubule, who spoke on a 702 EWN panel discussion, said four days after the speech he was still disappointed by it.

He was echoed by fellow panellists Busisiwe Radebe, an economist at Nedbank, and Isobel Frye, director of the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute.

Gqubule, founding director of the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation, said some of the points on economic targets made no sense at all. He questioned the competence of the officials who crafted the speech.

He said former president Jacob Zuma had set the bar too low but Ramaphosa appeared to be going in that direction as well.

“The current president will not be able to get the 10 years that Zuma got unless he gets his act going on the economy.

“There has been 15 months for us to see the president showing his backbone but we just didn’t see that backbone,” Gqubule said.

Ramaphosa’s suggestion to grow the economy faster than the population growth rate could mean anything above 1.5%.

“Why would he put such a lame target in a dream speech?” Gqubule asked.

He added that even the target of two million jobs in the next 10 years was below par because more than 800,000 new entrants entered the labour force just last year.

“When you say you will create 250,000 jobs a year that is less than 25% of the new entrants to the labour force,” he said.

The 800,000 entrants were besides the 2.6 million young people who were currently employed.

Ramaphosa’s figures fell below the ANC lekgotla’s, which undertook to halve the unemployment rate over the next five years, creating 7.5 million jobs.

“The numbers that came out of the lekgotla, in the Sona, they were thumbsucked,” he said.

Frye said the two million jobs promised would not even scratch the surface in addressing unemployment in the country.

“The needs were there but the detail was really short,” Frye said.

She said Ramaphosa even downgraded the objective of the National Development Plan (NDP) to eradicate poverty.

She said he had shifted the 2012 NDP’s middle poverty line of R456 (now R740) down to the food poverty line level (now at R547).”

Radebe doubted Ramaphosa would be able to achieve his own five goals, let alone the seven priorities.

Despite the criticism, farmers generally welcomed the address.

The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) said it showed agriculture remained at the centre of government’s plan to grow the economy and fight poverty, unemployment and inequality. The recognition of the need for extraordinary measures was welcomed.

“Bold and ambitious actions to develop and support black farmers to be significant players and therefore become catalysts in achieving the NDP goals should be prioritised,” Afasa chairperson Neo Masithela said yesterday.

Ramaphosa’s speech is to be debated today, with 45 on the speaker’s list, including ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane and the Economic Freedom Front’s Julius Malema.

The president is expected to respond tomorrow.


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