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Government lashed by Busa over lack of urgency in taking hard decisions

Stresses the importance of creating an environment for investment and growth in SA.
Decision-making precedes action … Image: Getty Images

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) CEO Cas Coovadia has criticised the lack of urgency by the government in taking the hard decisions to create an environment for investment and growth in the country.

Read: Which way are we going, Mr President?

Coovadia on Tuesday also indicated that Busa doesn’t believe that now is the time to have discussions with the government on labour representation on company boards and “tinker with board governance” – not when the country has significant economic and social problems to deal with.

In an address to a Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) Infrastructure Indaba, Coovadia said Busa could not complain about access to President Cyril Ramaphosa or ministers.

“We get access. But we are not having the hard discussions we need to have that will lead to the tough decisions that are needed to make the fundamental structural reforms in the economy.

“That is because those discussions are happening at Nedlac [the National Economic Development and Labour Council].

“While Nedlac is a useful forum for social dialogue, it’s not a useful forum for decision making,” he said.

Coovadia said Busa worked with government and other stakeholders during the course of last year to manage the impact of Covid-19.

Recovery strategy document bounced to Nedlac

It put together a comprehensive post-Covid-19 recovery strategy that talked about repositioning the economy so it is inclusive and the majority of the people in the country have a stake in the economy.

Coovadia said Busa presented this strategy to Ramaphosa and his team in June or July last year but the president decided the economic recovery discussions must take place at Nedlac.

He said Busa has since then been involved in discussions at Nedlac but has yet to receive an invitation from the government to meet them bilaterally on their economic strategy, “which we think is a problem and are pushing for”.

“There has been a leadership issue, there has been a state capacity issue – and as a result of that, the discussions at Nedlac have quite honestly produced very little but we continue to do that and we continue to engage the president bilaterally to see if we can unblock that.

“We are absolutely clear and will continue to press hard on this,” said Coovadia.

“We have met the new Minister of Finance [Enoch Godongwana] and in the Presidency [Mondli Gungubele] and they both agree that government, and the president in particular, need to lead this and [need] to have detailed, hard bilaterals with business on economic recovery,” he said.

July’s insurrection attempt

Coovadia said the July upheavals – the looting and unrest in parts of the country – simply exacerbated what was already a bad situation and Busa agreed with Ramaphosa that the situation was an attempt at insurrection.

He said that in discussions with Ramaphosa, Busa indicated that if it agreed on that, “this will be attempted again”.

However, Coovadia said there has again been very little movement on this and despite the government saying it has 14 suspects, nobody has been arrested.

He said the government also admitted that it fell short on security and intelligence issues but nothing has been done to remedy it.

Items government ‘could move on’ now

Coovadia added that an economic recovery action plan was developed at Nedlac and all Nedlac constituencies agreed in September 2020 on “immediately actionable items that government could move on”.

These include:

  • The auction of the new broadband spectrum;
  • Sorting out mining exploration licensing;
  • Issuing the next request for proposals for renewable energy; and
  • Sorting out the Durban port.

Coovadia said there has been no movement on some of these items six or seven months later.

Read: Icasa’s emergency spectrum decision will hurt the economy: Busi Mavuso

“The general problem we have on the whole economy recovery process and other issues that impact on this, is the lack of urgency, the lack of hard decision-making, and lack of leadership.

“Let’s thrash out the hard issues, let’s look at where compromise and trade-offs are necessary because they will be necessary across the board, and let’s take some decisions,” he said.

“That is what we are pushing for.”

Coovadia said the major business organisations under Busa took a decision that they also need to meet the ruling party because a lot of the problems in government are as a result of the problems in the ruling party.

“We need to indicate, not negotiate, to the ruling party that the way they are handling the issue is having a significant impact on the national interest and we would expect them to do something about it,” he said.

Labour representation on boards

Turning to labour representation on company boards, Coovadia said there is a whole range of issues related to confidentiality [and] fiduciary responsibilities to the board and the company being served.

Read: Making economic policy in South Africa in hard times

He stressed that board directors do not usually represent a contingent and are there with a fiduciary responsibility to the company.

“We need to work through all of those issues,” he said.

Infrastructure investment

Commenting on infrastructure investment, Coovadia said one of the problems is that “we have a smorgasbord of infrastructure projects and we can’t crack through any of them”.

Coovadia said Busa proposes that government work closely with the private sector on four or five major critical growth-generating infrastructure projects and that they plan these projects together.

He said there is also a need to address the blockages to rebuilding South Africa’s construction industry, including the “construction mafia”, and the creation of an appropriate labour environment to enable the construction industry to employ people easily.

Cesa president Sugen Pillay said it is important for South Africa to broadly reach consensus around the economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

He said this plan places great emphasis on investment in infrastructure development as the bedrock that will support SA’s economic recovery.

“This has created some much needed optimism for our industry, as well as the country, which has been suffering from decreased spending and dwindling investment,” he said.

Money ‘not always the problem’

Development Bank of Southern African disruption specialist Johann Lübbe said money is not always the problem in regard to infrastructure projects but rather having bankable projects.

Lubbe said lots of money is available in the investment space to invest in infrastructure but some alternative options are perhaps needed in terms of how infrastructure is financed.

“We know the constraints that many municipalities are facing to raise funding on their balance sheets so we are working on a number of alternative options,” he said.

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A union representative on the board of directors, leads to better pay and less earnings risk for the worker.

I’m not surprised that Busa is opposed to this. Government should not allow them to delay implementing this.

You are kidding me? Allow workers to dictate how i manage my business. I would rather take my money somewhere else

Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany,France and many others, all have a similar law guaranteeing labour representation on the board of directors.

It works in these countries. It will work here.

Funny how you mention Countries with the Highest Single and Family Income Tax Rates. Isit more pay if you taxed more?

@EFF drone – what happened to african solutions for african problems?

Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany,France and many others, all have a similar law guaranteeing labour representation on the board of directors.

It works in these countries. It will work here.

Government cannot make hard decisions and therefore everything is delayed as the can gets kicked down the road endlessly.
A typical example is the decision around E-Toll Roads. Countless promises, endless speeches and no decisions and therefore again, no implementation.

Not true. Etolls have been implemented. The gantries are built. Bills are being sent out monthly.

Most companies are doing the right thing and paying for use of the road. However, individuals are not.

Here’s a prediction: they will never end Etolls. If they were going to end it, it would be before the election on November 1st.

The continued debate is to give voters like yourself hope.

Not true. Etolls have been implemented. The gantries are built. Bills are being sent out monthly.

Most companies are doing the right thing and paying for use of the road. However, individuals are not.

Here’s a prediction: they will never end Etolls. If they were going to end it, it would be before the election on November 1st.

The continued debate is to give voters like yourself hope.

The comment was made with reference to the scrapping of E-Tolls. Promises, promises, promises.
Same with electricity an water payments. What gets put forward is the “user pay principle”. This simply does not happen with individuals in selected areas and eventually the debt gets scrapped whilst in other areas services are cut off due to non payment. Government is talking with a forked tongue.

This is nothing less than than apartheid based on the residential geographical location.

EFF C probably just a bot or effort to create controversy. Like the guy from Sidney few years ago.or he is a brainless ANC drone with a computer. To be ignored at all costs.

Great thinking…

BUT I will not allow some work to tell me what to do.

Simple solution. No investment into SA!

I have an even better idea than just having a union representative on the board. What about trades union starting their own airline, their own power supplier to compete with Eskom, their own postal service, and any number of other businesses. All of these staffed and managed exclusively by the immensely talented, intelligent and productive union members.

There is no doubt that all these enterprises will be tremendously successful, and that they will pay even the lowest grade of workers at least R1.5m per annum, plus free housing in Sandton and a Bentley company car for the cleaners.

The future is yours, comrade!

Concur – they can free themselves from slavery — Question -Why do they not do so??
Oh ja – almost forgot — Jan is to blame for that ne.

Hahahaaa.

We have a “unionist” as the “leader” of this country. We know what effect that has.

The country as a whole has now become a hole.

A union representative on the board of directors, leads to better pay and less earnings risk for the worker.

I’m not surprised that Busa is opposed to this. Government should not allow them to delay implementing this.

To distill it to its basics, the Govt is made up of ANC cadres who have are complicit in corruption. Therefore the prefer the opaque and consequenceless world of no decision making.

The ANC gangster state is the problem.

I read an article like this and I wonder what Cyril and friends are busy with, that they don’t find time to sit down with people like Busa? What can they possibly find that is more important than solving the financial crisis we have? What could be more pressing than saving the country’s economy and, in fact, the country itself? The only explanation I can find is that they are too busy thinking up more ways to loot and steal, or perhaps they’re to busy to find ways of saving their very well paying political jobs. But surely that is just to pessimistic.

Maybe McDonalds is still going strong. Like the Mac index is used to compare the exchange rate, I think SAs disruption/declining Mac support should become noticable?

Government makes decisions like the boys on a beer drink in the local shabeen do.

It probably looks that way because it is that way. What are all the imbizo’s, etc. for but to have a big piss up?

Lash them! This lot has to be the laziest most incompetent government on the planet, given the staggering amounts of money they earn. Totally incapable of meeting a deadline or doing ANYTHING with a sense of urgency.

We must never forget that the ANC government is very busy “fighting corruption” and introducing wide ranging “structural reforms”, or at least that’s what they tell the international investment community. Heh, heh, heh, ……

Busa Captain Obvious. Busa does not have the qualifications to handle any of these key points. You have the problems down but you do not have any of the consequences of decision making. Busa should just do their report and hand over to the appropriate authorities. I’m sure those key issues do not include economical and low risk solutions. These are not only local issues but they are intertwined with foreign politics and deals made by the previous administration.

I don’t see how any of your points take away from the fact that government has repeatedly dithered about when it comes to addressing key economic issues which don’t have any easy solution or can’t simply be taxed away.

Advising people to leave it to the “appropriate authorities” to sort out carries a number of assumptions about the competency and capacity of such authorities which I am not entirely sure holds true in South Africa.

Ye have no faith. Okay. So the power situation is with Turkey. That’s a lot of litigation. Look how long the state capture took. The looting suspects we already know foreign entities infiltrate social media to push propaganda and I don’t see usa making any progress in that regard so its sensitive. The spectrum issue is with private businesses not getting a long. Durban port well we have a lot of deep sea harbour ports in every major city accept Johannesburg and that’s also a litigation issue. What’s the last point? Mining exploration is a age old issue but progress is being made. Mining is the backbone of this country and very sensitive. These are all issues locked up in litigation so I dont see how the president can just wave his hand and sort them out in a instant.

The ANC has more important things on their minds at the moment – there’s an election coming up! Favourites are being backed for lucrative positions in municipalities! F&F – Family & Friends are planning tenders and contracts for the future!

Running the country is just a sideline.

I am surprised that business has not made more of what competition commission is getting up to with their deal conditions.

If government came along to current owners of a business and prescribed investments and expansion and new jobs, people would be up in arms.

How is it right when government imposes conditions on the new owner? In this case the seller is empowered and the buyer is foreign investment!!! Nuts – who would invest and what does this do to market values when one can expect to be dictated to even in a non-strategic wildly competitive sector like fast food?

It is time competition commission has its scope narrowed and its powers limited. I get the need in strategic or highly concentrated sectors. What next – every deal over R100m has a government prescription?

Start with this – stop stealing and breaking EVERYTHING!!

Lack of urgency in taking?

Lack of ability to take. There I fixed it for them.

Union fees to employees are typically 1 %
Will i listen in any shape or form to an outsider who represent 1% whist it is my staff ? It is my staff 99 % not the unions, if you want to talk, talk to MY employee’s in their off time.

Should the union not like it , it is easy, put unions logo on their pay advice ( in other words employ them yourself).

End of comments.

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