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Thu Jun 30 21:26:53 SAST 2016

Zuma might at last be getting it right on economy

The Times Editorial | 12 February, 2016 01:04

Once he actually got to speak last night, President Jacob Zuma delivered a State of the Nation speech that was, in the main, surprisingly business friendly, even if it was often short on detail.

Zuma seemed to have taken on board the concerns of business, expressed at high-level meetings aimed at kick-starting our faltering economy and staving off a downgrading of our sovereign debt to junk status.

Predictably, he did not mention the near-fatal loss of confidence in this country of investors, caused by the disastrous game of musical chairs he played with the Finance Ministry in December.

Opposition MPs jeered Zuma's assertion that the country was still an attractive investment destination but he took pains to assure investors that he had heard their appeals for policy certainty, particularly in the ailing mining sector.

In a speech laced with appeals to business and the unions to work with the government to grow the economy and create jobs, he announced steps to cut red tape, fast-track investment and boost small business.

Zuma's commitment to ensuring that public funds are spent wisely, that state-owned enterprises will be reined in, and that fruitless and wasteful expenditure - including unnecessary overseas trips and social functions - will be curtailed, would have been music to the ears of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who presents his Budget the week after next.

Even better was the president's undertaking that the government's nuclear energy programme would be properly costed and that ''we will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford''.

Steps would be taken, he said, to ensure that a minimum wage would be implemented at a level that did not deter investment.

If he carries through with his promises, Zuma might just be able to undo some of the damage wreaked on the economy by his administration over the past seven years.

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