Big projects in pipeline to boost jobs in Nelson Mandela Bay, Mabuyane says in state of province address

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane. File picture
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane. File picture
Image: Werner Hills

Nelson Mandela Bay is poised for a jobs bonanza, with a number of projects set to be implemented by the Coega Development Corporation, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane announced on Tuesday.

Delivering his state of the province address in Bhisho, at a scaled down event which was budgeted at R500,000 compared to R800,000 in 2019, Mabuyane said the special economic zones (SEZ) in Port Elizabeth and East London would play a vital role in stemming the unemployment crisis gripping the province.

The Eastern Cape's unemployment rate climbed three percentage points to 39.5% between October and December.

Over that period, there were 18,000 more unemployed people in the province — adding to the 45,000 who lost their jobs in the quarter before.

Mabuyane said the plans of his government were aimed at creating jobs for the youth in particular.

Mabuyane announced that the budget facility for infrastructure had approved seven catalytic projects submitted for the Coega SEZ.

“These projects will inject R1.4bn into our provincial economy,” Mabuyane said.

“We have also concluded a significant land deal with Transnet for the Ngqura Manganese Export Terminal.

“This deal will pave a way for the development of the Port Elizabeth waterfront. [We are moving with speed now]," he said.

“Pursuant to our efforts, the department of mineral resources & energy has pronounced that the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project will be implemented in Coega to unlock the potential of gas industry in our province.

“Transnet has committed to co-operate with the public and private sectors on this LNG gas project.

“We are also pleased to indicate that in this term Transnet will invest an additional R4.6bn for 17 key projects, such as Manganese Multi Channel Strategy, Phase 1 of the Port Elizabeth Water Front and Tank Farm project,” Mabuyane said.

He said they wanted to use Coega's expertise for the development of the entire provincial economic infrastructure.

“In this financial year we will consolidate technical capacity at Coega to assist the province on conceptualisation and preparation of all submissions for economic infrastructure projects.

“While some SOEs are experiencing challenges, our two SEZs continue to demonstrate capacity of providing cutting edge solutions for the development trajectory of this province.

“In the period under this review, the Coega SEZ signed 18 new investors who pledged an investment to the value of R2.6bn.

“Since March 2019 to date, the CDC has already signed four new lease agreements with various companies all pledging to invest more than R110m,” he said.

The performance of the SEZs illustrates that when SOEs are properly managed by the right people with the right skills, they can accelerate the development agenda of the country, Mabuyane said.

“This is against the narrative that privatisation is the only effective and capable instrument to drive development and deliver services.

“We must continue to support our two SEZs”.

Mabuyane said they were in talks with Transnet to increase the capacity of the Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth railway line so that Ford could export their cars through the port of Port Elizabeth.

Talking on the plans to build the economy in other parts of the province, Mabuyane said they were going to offset the slow economic growth and unemployment in the province through a range of initiatives and decisive interventions.

“First, we will fully use the R1.1bn we approved over the (medium term) for the provincial economic stimulus fund to ignite economic activities and to create new jobs.

“We are now disbursing the stimulus fund to key sectors of the provincial economy such as agriculture and agro processing, film, ICT, industrialisation, manufacturing, oceans economy, tourism, rural and township economy.

“In this term we are also going to respond swiftly to the challenge of ageing infrastructure which deprives our people key services such as water and sanitation.

“One of the components of our infrastructure build programme which is critical to grow the economy and enhance the mobility of our people, is the transport infrastructure,” Mabuyane said.

He said he wanted small business owners to the beneficiaries of government's plans as they are a fountain for job creation.

“We are not short of entrepreneurial geniuses in this province who are contributing immensely to job creation.

“I know them, you know them and we see them when we visit our communities.

“The application processes of government Development Finance Institutions are too cumbersome, hindering their growth and productivity. We are fixing the red tape and in the 2020/21 financial year, we will develop a system that will fast-track allocation of funds to deserving businesses.

“The procurement bill is on our side on this and we must use it to create new industries and sustain existing ones in our province. We implement all these reforms to affirm our SMMEs, but our efforts will be futile if we do not pay SMMEs on time,” he said.

Last year, the provincial government launched an invoice tracking system to ensure that suppliers were paid within 30 days.

“It gives me a great pleasure to announce that since we launched the Have I been Paid system, turnaround times for the payment of service providers within 30 days have significantly improved.

“We will now rollout this system to eight more departments,” he said.

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