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Zuma issues warning on growth

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By SAPA

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma issued a sober warning in his state-of-the-nation address on Thursday that South Africa needed a superlative effort, and unity between sectors, to grow the economy and create jobs.

A flu-ridden Zuma said it was a fact that the country would miss  the target of creating 11 million jobs by 2030 -- as set out in the  National Development Plan -- unless the economy grew threefold.

"In my last meeting with the business community, the sector indicated that for the economy to grow three-fold we must remove certain obstacles," he said.

"We will engage business, labour, and other social partners in pursuit of solutions. No single force acting individually can achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves," he said.

It was widely expected that the president would use his speech as a rallying call to implement the plan, and his leadership victory at the Mangaung conference two months ago to attempt to get  different political forces to converge behind it.

Zuma termed the plan -- which is the vision of the country for the next 20 years -- a roadmap to creating an equal and just country.

He said its planned outcomes, from access to basic services, to safety to employment, had recently been hampered by global economic  woes, and he warned that these were not about to go away.

The achievement of these goals had proved difficult in the recent past, due the global economic recession.

The crisis in the Eurozone affected South Africa's economy, as the Eurozone was its major trading partner, accounting for around 21 percent of exports.

"Our GDP growth is expected to average at 2.5 percent, down from  3.1 percent in the previous year. We need growth rates in excess of  five percent to create more jobs."

In a nod to the left, the president also retained a focus on the  role of a strong state in the economy in rescuing stricken industries, and rolling out infrastructure programmes.

"The past two years have demonstrated that where the state intervenes strongly and consistently, it can turn around key industries that face external and internal threats as has happened in our manufacturing sector."

He conceded that the state had encountered a learning curve on its infrastructure drive, and said projects would now be fast-tracked.

Zuma confirmed that mining taxes would be reviewed as part of a wider study on the suitability of South Africa's tax regime, but said he believed policy certainty had been brought to the sector by  the decision in Mangaung to abandon the nationalisation debate.

"Later this year, the minister of finance will be commissioning a study of our current tax policies, to make sure that we have an appropriate revenue base to support public spending.

"Part of this study will evaluate the current mining royalties regime, with regard to its ability to suitably serve our people."

Referring to the Marikana shooting, the president said he believed labour stability had been secured in the Rustenburg region.

He returned to the event later in his speech, to announce that the police and justice department had been instructed to deal with violent protest as a priority.

"Courts will be allocated to deal with such cases on a prioritised roll. The law must be enforced and it must be seen to be enforced, fairly, effectively and expeditiously."

Zuma took a tough stance on crime, singling out the rape and murder of Anene Booysen, and called for a concerted effort to end violence against women.

"The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country."

He signalled a similar resolve on improving education and said a  remuneration commission would tackle the teaching profession first to ensure it attracted and retained skills.

"In elevating education to its rightful place, we want to see an  improvement in the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools. We want to see an improvement in attitudes, posture and outcomes." - Sapa

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