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By Gcina Ntsaluba

Journalist


SA needs ‘big plans and long-term vision’ for growth

Forget crisis management, a long-term strategy is needed for SA’s ailing economy to function within the confines of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a shift in thinking and clear policies, experts say.


South African manufacturers need to step up and take advantage of the global demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said yesterday.

But analysts have warned government should be focussing more on broader economic policies and invest more in local businesses to decrease its dependence on foreign imports.

Economic and political analyst Daniel Silke said there seemed to be a lack of clarity regarding health-related matters and economic policies by government to drive the long-term economic strategy.

“What is needed is a long-term strategy that will enable our economy to function within the confines of Covid-19.

“We need a shift in thinking with clear policies outlined to generate economic growth.

“This is not the time for short-term views,” he said.

Speaking yesterday at an economic cluster briefing regarding level 3 restrictions, Patel said the manufacturing, sale and export of PPEs, hand sanitisers and other healthcare equipment to fight Covid-19 presented an opportunity for local businesses.

Patel said even though some of the PPEs had been procured from other parts of the world during the “begging” stages of the pandemic while local factories were getting ready for production, the country was already exporting to neighbouring countries.

Economist Xhanti Payi encouraged the move. He said the focus for government should now be procuring PPEs from local businesses to decrease the dependence on imports to stimulate growth in SA’s ailing economy.

“This should be the time for South Africa to develop its own PPEs and maybe export because we have the capacity to produce locally and we need the cash injection,” he said.

Payi said it did not make sense to import materials which could be sourced or produced locally when SA has local industries such as Da Gama Textiles in the Eastern Cape, which is a major supplier to South African retailers and wholesalers, and provides a link to many manufacturers in the informal sectors.

“We might have made the wrong decisions in the begging stages [by importing] but this is a grand opportunity to invest in our local industries to make sure that we produce enough healthcare equipment to be a leading player on the continent and, indeed, around the world.

“I am confident we have the capacity in South Africa to do exactly that,” he said.

Payi said from an economic point of view, South Africa needed to export PPEs in order to make money, but the primary objective should be capacitating local manufacturing to produce for the global demand.

“We have already started supplying and exporting PPEs to neighbours and the rest of the continent.

“Due to the local shortage of PPEs, many countries look to South Africa to assist in making kits available to fight the virus.

“It’s important that we do so because, as neighbours, it’s only when we can ensure the infection doesn’t spread across the whole region that South Africans are safe,” Payi said.

Patel said South Africa had exported 150 million litres of hand sanitiser so far to countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.

Meanwhile, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi also said that South Africa needed to change its behaviour in response to the dangers posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said from 30 March to 30 May, a total of 332 prohibition notices were served with an average of about nine prohibition notices per day.

Out of the total amount of 3,844 inspections, 2,116 complied, while 1,724 failed to comply, Nxesi said.

“We need to change behaviour in response to the dangers posed by this deadly virus,” he said.

“This message has not embedded itself in the consciousness of many employers according to what we see in our statistics,” said Nxesi.

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