During the past 3 weeks, both SA president Jacob Zuma and US president Barack Obama gave their annual addresses to the citizens of their respective countries. Zuma presented his State of the Nation on 14 February, while Obama gave his State of the Union on 22 January.
Common prevailing issues
Unemployment seems as much an issue in the US as it is at home. Over and above initiatives to create more jobs, both presidents focused on economic growth, infrastructure spending, education and energy, especially alternative energy sources.
In both instances, local events coloured the presidents’ speeches, with Obama talking about gun control and reducing the US military footprint abroad, while Zuma addressed strike action going forward and rhino poaching.
The speech stats
Zuma’s speech focused on the National Development Plan’s five priorities of education, health, the fight against crime, creating decent work and rural development and land reform. The address contained some big numbers:
- R860-billion spent on infrastructure projects
- 11-million jobs to be created 2030
- 200 000 more households with electricity
- R47-billion in renewable energy projects under way
Good news for SMEs
While Obama’s speech focused firmly on small business, Zuma also had good news for local small business in that government departments will be pressurised to pay SMEs within 30 days. Departments are required to submit monthly reports and accounting officers who fail to execute this directive, will face consequences.
Responding to the State of the Nation Address (SoNA), the CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), Neren Rau, said he would have liked to have seen more programmes supporting small business in addition to the enforcement of the 30 day payment rule, as substantial work had been done on this last year.
SACCI on the SoNA
Rau said that SACCI welcomed:
- The promotion of the NDP as the national long term plan
- Acknowledgement that business faces many obstacles that must be removed to accelerate economic growth
- Acknowledgement that the partnership between government, business and labour is key to delivering solutions to SA’s economic challenges
- Infrastructure development broadly, but specifically commitment to the Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistic and industrial corridor
- Commitment to fast-tracking Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission infrastructure projects this year
- Youth employment incentives
- Reiteration that the Nationalisation debate is laid to rest
- The establishment of the Presidential Remuneration Commission to look at state remuneration especially for teachers
- Increased capacity and performance of the Special Investigations Unit against corruption and fraud
- The call on labour to exercise the right to protest in a peaceful and orderly manner and that any incidents of violent protest will acted upon, investigated and prosecuted in a prioritised manner