After a year that left him politically weakened, President Jacob Zuma on Thursday said his government had a successful and productive 2016, with the economy remaining resilient and the country still being considered an attractive investment base.
Zuma said the country’s avoidance of a sovereign credit downgrading, widely attributed to embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, was the result of joint efforts by government, labour and the private sector, boosted by a meeting he hosted for captains of industry in February.
“One of the key achievements of the year was the collaboration between government, business and labour to promote economic growth and stave off sovereign downgrades by credit rating agencies,” he said.
“We congratulate the social partners whose hard work helped the country avert a credit ratings downgrade.”
He added that the administration was seeing results from the Nine Point Plan, aimed at achieving the goals of the National Development Plan, and these included a growth in manufacturing, a 14-percent jump in tourism and an 18-percent increase in agriculture and fishing exports.
“The Industrial Development Corporation last year approved R14,5 billion in new investment, the largest sum to date and 26% higher than the preceding year. Of particular note is the fact that this included 2,9 billion in transactions involving 54 black industrialists, so that we broaden participation in the economy.” He also cited the stabilisation of Eskom’s electriticy supply as the absence of load-shedding since April 2015 as a key success, crediting it to the commissioning of new power plants and bringing independent power producers on line.
The president reiterated government’s intention to turn to the market with a request for proposals for new nuclear reactors. Zuma said it was an important step to designate Eskom as the procurer and operator of new nuclear capacity, but added that the department of energy and Cabinet would remain responsible for the overall coordination and oversight over the expansion programme.
Once proposals were received, the department would report back to Cabinet on a proposed funding model.
“As I have previously indicated, any procurement process must be on “a scale and at a pace that our country can afford,” he added.