Presidency will take hands-on approach to boost economy – Zuma

The presidency will take a “hands-on approach” towards boosting confidence in the economy, President Jacob Zuma has told MPs.

Opening debate in the National Assembly on the presidency’s 2013/14 budget today, he warned on South Africa’s tense labour relations situation.

“It is not in the interest of the country to have a tense labour relations environment, which is characterised by a weakening of collective bargaining mechanisms, illegal wildcat strikes, violent protests and loss of life.”

Zuma said he was optimistic a solution would be found.

“The presidency will this year take a hands-on approach, working closely with relevant departments and social partners to boost confidence in the economy.”

What was required was a “commitment to resolve labour disputes peacefully and within the framework of the law, and in the interests of workers, employers and the country as a whole”.

The president said he had recently asked his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, to lead a ministerial team to help the mining sector normalise the situation.

“Work is continuing in this regard, and we remain optimistic that a solution will be found.”

To loud applause, Zuma said government “does not take sides and does not favour any labour union over others in the mining industry”. Its interest was in finding solutions.

“Now that we have entered the bargaining season in other sectors as well, we urge business and labour to ensure a speedier resolution of wage negotiations.”

These had to take place within the framework of the law.

“Failure to act within the Constitution and the law gives a wrong impression of such a critical economic sector in our country: mining.”

He warned against “those who commit crime in the name of labour relations”, saying law enforcement agencies had been instructed not to tolerate such behaviour.

“They will face the full might of the law,” Zuma told the House.

“We cannot be the ones who undermine our own economy … We can’t call for economic growth and the creation of jobs, but undermine the conditions that … lead to economic growth and job creation.”

Zuma’s remarks come a day after the JSE suffered its biggest one-day loss in 20 months. The rand hit a new low of R10.36 to the US dollar on Tuesday, but recovered to R10.08 later in the day.

Data released last month showed real GDP growth in South Africa slowed to 0.9% in the first quarter of this year.

The 2013/14 budget for the presidency totals almost R1.1 billion. This figure includes the president’s R2.8 million salary, which – according to the Estimates of National Expenditure document tabled in February – is budgeted to rise to R3 million in 2014/15, and R3.1 million in 2015/16.

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