President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to play their part in fostering economic recovery as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
In his letter Monday, Ramaphosa significant economic recovery can only be achieved by reducing the country’s debt to “stable” levels.
“Our national consciousness must now move beyond the realm of relief to that of recovery, and we must all be part of this effort,” he said.
The government will have to implement tough public spending decisions this year, and companies will need to be innovative in ensuring their sustainability and profitability to keep jobs.
“We need to invest our money in our economy by buying local products, supporting local businesses and industries, and procuring from local suppliers.
“An injured patient with strong recovery prospects is given regular physical therapy to help them get stronger while they remain helpless.
“As a nation, let us all lend a hand. “Let us be part of our development and progress,” said the President.
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Read his full letter below:
Dear friend of South Africa,
It will soon be a year since the first reported case of coronavirus in our country. The pandemic has brought huge costs to both public health and the livelihoods of millions of our people.
Many workers lost part of their income as their working hours were reduced, while many returned. Some businesses have suffered huge losses from downsized operations. The others had to be shut down. People working in the informal sector have also suffered.
Worst of all, the pandemic has taken the lives of family members in many families, leaving them poor and fearful for the future.
That is why the extensive aid measures we put in place were necessary and urgent. And, now that almost a year has passed, we can say that these measures have proved effective.
From the full package of assistance measures we introduced, perhaps the two measures that had the greatest impact were the Covid-19 special grant and the Covid-19 Temporary Employer Assistance Scheme, commonly known as Covid Ters.
We would not be able to assemble these measures in such a short space of time if we did not already have an extensive social security infrastructure in place.
We were able to respond to this great and immediate need in our society thanks to the substantial nationwide infrastructure and systems of the South African Social Insurance Agency (Sassa) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
Of course there were technical and other problems along the way, but most of them were resolved quickly. These government agencies did tremendous work to register millions of new beneficiaries and make sure they were paid.
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The support provided by the UIF was a lifeline for struggling businesses and employees. They made the difference between companies that remain open and were forced to close, between places saved and places lost.
This benefited businesses like Sihles Brew, a restaurant in Gauteng, which was able to hold 18 employees due to the Ters scheme. Thanks to government support, Mamoshalagae Trading and Projects, an electro-electric business in Mokopane, was able to pay its workers as well as its rent and fees during the blockade.
Employees in distress were able to receive a portion of their wages.
Lindiwe Ntuli, a classmate at Centurion, has shown how receiving her benefits enabled her to work from home and be able to afford her rent.
There are many stories of companies that have been able to stay afloat over the past year because of the support they received from the UIF. The same can be said for small business-assisted grants and various loans secured by a number of departments.
These measures helped our people a lot in their time of need.
As we move from relief to recovery, we need to shift gears.
While these mitigation measures were created to be temporary, the economy will continue to feel the effects of the pandemic for some time.
Even when blockchain restrictions have been eased, many companies are struggling to cope with the consequences of months of diminished operations and lost revenue.
Strong for this reason that, after extensive discussions with the social partners at Nedlac, the benefit of Covid Ters has been extended until 15 March 2021 for sectors that have not been able to function fully.
The special Covid grant has been extended for another three months.
These remain short-term measures.
Our focus now should be on creating a potential environment for business recovery and economic growth that fosters job creation and investment attraction.
Healing will be difficult and time consuming, not least because we are still in the midst of a pandemic.
Important as these mitigation measures are now in place, we will not be able to maintain them indefinitely.
We need to make sure that these mitigation measures provide a solid foundation for a wider recovery without putting the country deeper into debt. If we can not reduce our national debt to sustainable levels, no significant economic recovery will be possible.
Our national consciousness must now move beyond the realm of relief to that of recovery, and we must all be part of this effort.
As a government, tough public spending decisions will have to be made and implemented this year.
Companies will need to be innovative in driving methods and processes that ensure their sustainability and profitability, with job retention as their main consideration.
We need to invest our money in our economy by buying local products, supporting local businesses and industries, and procuring from local suppliers.
An injured patient with strong prospects for recovery is given regular physical therapy to help them strengthen while remaining unassisted.
So these temporary relief measures should be seen as the means to get our economy on its feet. Our ultimate goal is to walk again.
As a nation, let us all lend a hand. Let us be part of our development and progress.
Let’s use enhanced relief to achieve a stronger recovery.
With best respect,
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