Some green shoots for EC in budget
While Border-Kei Chamber of Business chief executive Les Holbrook described finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget as “not much to shout about” , there were, he said, many aspects that would cascade down beneficially to local businesses.
“The Border area once had a thriving textile industry and the bulk of incentive increases seemed to be heading to textiles. Border must grab its share of this. We need to drill down into the opportunity so as to assist investors, and existing companies, to revive the industry.”
The chamber has a history of contentious issues with Buffalo City Metro, the most recent the rates issue.
According to the commercial property organisation, Buffalo City Property Owners Forum (BCPOF), the city has raked in nearly R150m through illegal rates.
“Mboweni’s veiled threats that treasury will assist municipalities with their performance will help BCPOF spotlight BCM’s ineptitude with this rates matter. It creates a false impression of the city’s balance sheet, because the money must be returned.
“Promises of stricter control over tenders and contracts falls in to the same category. Chamber is fully behind the promise to stamp out the wholesale looting, bribery and corruption, as well as steps to reduce bloated state wage bills.
“We have to hope that the latter may one day lead to BCM having to cap staff numbers.”
Holbrook said the chamber’s building industry members should score from the R30bn set aside for new schools, but as has happened in the past with several capital intense project, the work is regularly awarded to companies and professional bodies outside the Border area.
“With regard to keeping work in the Border, the promise to use alternative energy sources will benefit East London’s photovoltaic panel producer, ILB Helios,” he said.
“Two years ago our top solar panel producer, Ikhwezi Solar was forced to close in the face of imports from China. That cannot be allowed to happen again.
“New school construction and refurbishment of existing schools is an ideal chance to invigorate the Border building industry.
“Eastern Cape has more mud schools than any other province, and eradicating them should be a priority.
“It is the sort of foundation on which to create opportunities for new entrants, and assist in job creation. Couple this with the promise to make doing business easier by unshackling demanding laws, and jobs will flow. ”
Linked to the refurbishment of schools is the R2.8bn allocated to closing all pit latrines. Again, Eastern Cape is the chief offender, with more pits toilets than any other province, and schools without any toilets.
On a broader front, Holbrook said that the extra funding for the small business ministry must flow down to Border. Bailouts of state-owned enterprises would keep the economy ticking, and any move to create growth flows direct through to Border businesses. Also welcomed was increased grants, minimal PAYE increases and no VAT adjustments.
“Controlling Eskom and the downstream result of reducing electricity prices is good news. As was the announcement of a chief reorganising officer, with the hint that whoever got the job would enjoy full independence.”..