R150bn to boost small businesses
Minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe has defended government’s newly announced radical economic policy, saying it could result in about R150 billion going into the hands of smaller and black-owned businesses annually.
On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma said government would start using levers such as legislation, licensing and budgets to drive the transformation.
He told the nation that the state spent R500 billion per year buying goods and services, and that that budget had to be used to achieve economic transformation.
Radebe said once the bill that would make it compulsory for big contractors to subcontract 30% of business to black-owned enterprises was enacted, at least R150 billion would flow towards smaller businesses.
The regulations regarding the subcontracting have been finalised and were gazetted in January.
Radebe also dismissed fears that big business could be hostile to the new approach.
“Business has been working hand in hand with government. Last year, when the country was facing the possibility of an economic downgrade, it was business that joined us to ensure we avoided the downgrade,” he said.
Radebe said by tackling the anti-competitive practices of monopolies, a greater role would be created for small and medium-sized enterprises.
“If you look at the success of egalitarian societies, such as in the Scandinavian countries, you will find that there was no magic that made them succeed. All they did was to open up for small businesses to play a bigger role in the economy,” he explained.
Radebe also denied that with this plan, Zuma was on a frolic of his own, saying: “The lexicon of radical economic transformation first entered our space towards the last ANC conference in Mangaung in 2012.”
He said it arose from an assessment that the first decade of democracy was entirely devoted to the attainment of political democracy; therefore, the second phase had to be about economic emancipation.
Radebe gave an assurance that the plan would not place undue pressure on the Treasury, adding that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would give more specific context when he announces his budget in two weeks.
“This is not just a wish list. All these ideas and plans were discussed during the Cabinet lekgotla and have been taken into account in the budgets of the line departments,” Radebe said.
In his speech, Zuma emphasised that the “skewed nature of ownership and leadership patterns needs to be corrected”.
“There can be no sustainability in any economy if the majority is excluded in this manner. In my discussion with the business community, they accepted these transformation imperatives,” he said.