The numerous disruptions from the opposition party; Economic Freedom Fighters, could not undermine the importance of the things that President Jacob Zuma’s speech in the State of The Nation Address was expected to handle. So just in case you don’t have the time or the desire to read the 5000 word speech here, we’ll look now at some key-points of the speech that many experts defined as his toughest yet;
- President Zuma is apparently very much attuned to his country’s precarious position in the international market currently;
After a round about session of recognizing anniversaries and important people, the President plunged into a quick evaluation of the country’s economic status. He immediately identified economic issues inclusive of the problem with low mineral prices worldwide and referred to the growth of some partner economies, stating;
“The economies of two of our partners in BRICS: Brazil and Russia – are expected to contract this year. The third, China, will not register the kind of robust growth that it is known for.”
President Zuma also spoke on the country’s lowering profile as a viable investment base; “Importantly, our country seems to be at risk of losing its investment grade status from ratings agencies. If that happens, it will become more expensive for us to borrow money from abroad to finance our programmes of building a better life for all especially the poor.” He then briefly elaborated some means to avoid that grim eventuality.
- He showed a particular interest in business endeavors inclusive of state owned enterprises and companies;
It was an expected branch off after discussing the state of the economy, especially since the weeks prior to SONA had seen President Zuma attend to many concerns from business leaders. On this President Zuma said;
“We have heard the suggestions from business community on how we can turn the situation around and put the economy back on a growth path. We have heard the points about the need to create the correct investment support infrastructure. Government is developing a One Stop Shop/Invest SA initiative to signal that South Africa is truly open for business. We will fast-track the implementation of this service, in partnership with the private sector.”
He also referred to State Owned Companies (SOC) enumerating the relevance of some of them whilst still hinting at a major restructuring to ensure that there were no dormant places.
- Projected a seemingly renewed zeal to focus on cutting public fund spending in government expenditures;
President Zuma although cleverly sidestepping the ongoing Nkandla scandal, spoke on his governments renewed zeal to cut back on government expenditure. He went as far as enumerating some ways that this will be done, although some experts view them as easy targets, they include;
- Curtailing of overseas trips
- Reducing and standardizing sizes of delegations
- Institution of further restrictions on conferences, catering, entertainment and social functions
- The budget vote dinners for stakeholders hosted by government departments in Parliament after the delivery of budget speeches will no longer take place.
- Hinted at a possible scaling back of his nuclear energy plans;
The proposed deal had been to acquire 9 600MW nuclear power station a highly contested plan especially by the former finance minister, whom he had fired with backlash from both his party and other investors but while he stated that the programme remained part of the future energy mix, he also acquiesced that his government would “test the market to ascertain the true cost of building modern nuclear plants”’ and they “will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford”.
- Identified the executive as pro-one capital;
Zuma also weighed in on the debate around South Africa’s two political centres: Pretoria and Cape Town, which necessitates politicians having two houses and cars across both capitals, which of course has a huge implication on government expenditure. “A big expenditure item, that we would like to persuade Parliament to consider, is the maintenance of two capitals, Pretoria as the administrative one and Cape Town as the legislative capital,” Zuma said . “We believe that the matter requires the attention of Parliament soon.”