SACCI CONVENTION

Tackling the bull by the horns

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The annual SACCI Convention and Gala Dinner, which has gained popularity among industry leaders over the past few years, this year saw delegates engaging in conversations around some of the most pressing trade and investment challenges facing South Africa. 

The Gala Dinner themed ‘Red carpet; not red tape’, which took place on 22 September, posed the question “What steps should be taken to encourage foreign and local investment in order to stimulate a moribund economy?”

High-profile speakers and panel members at the Gala Dinner included Elizabeth Thabathe (Deputy Minister of Small Business Development), Irvin Jim (Numsa General Secretary), Vodacom’s Vuyani Jarana, Bonang Mohale (Shell Chairman and Vice-President), Piet Croucamp from the University of Johannesburg and SACCI President Vusi Khumalo.

During the convention, four motions were presented which were adopted unanimously. In all cases, SACCI will call on Government to attend to these requirements of the business community which are carefully considered and advanced as means of accelerating economic and business growth and improving the climate for investment.

The first motion, proposed by SACCI Deputy President, Tinus Havinga, argued that in order to promote the growth of small businesses and a spirit of entrepreneurship within the country, and in emulation of similar measures taken in other countries, a Bill of Rights for Entrepreneurs must be drafted and enacted.

“In making the proposal, SACCI is honouring the commitment of the ICC World Chambers Federation made at its recent Congress in Torino, Italy. Chambers from countries around the world, all of which have large numbers of small and medium enterprises within their memberships, agreed to promote the protection of fundamental rights of the entrepreneur, who, in turn, must acknowledge his/her responsibility towards the national economy, environmental and social values, and employees.

“The adoption of such a Bill of Rights is considered entirely appropriate in South Africa at present since it will give due status to entrepreneurship, promote the growth of the SME sector and, thereby, facilitate job creation and economic growth. The Bill should include, inter alia, the security of property and assets within a free market environment, the right of free association, the right to contract, the right to be included in consultative processes and the freedom from monopolistic practices, by public and private sector entities, which inhibit business development,” he says.

The second motion proposed by SACCI’s Policy Peggy Drodskie asked that, in recognition of the shortfall between energy supply and energy demand, especially within the mining and industrial sectors (and being mindful of environmental best practice and costs to the fiscus and energy users), a coherent, transparent and affordable national energy policy be presented.  This, she says, must take account, inter alia, of municipal practices and the resulting disparities in tariffs which adversely affect industrial and other users.

“The extremely detrimental state of electricity supply in South Africa reflects poor planning and the failure of the State to develop and implement a coherent energy policy. Previous attempts to do this have floundered for various reasons, leaving the country in a precarious position in which economic development and growth is seriously curtailed. While strategies have been developed to mitigate the current crisis, the way forward is singularly unclear, both in respect of Eskom and the means whereby energy supply may be secured at affordable costs,” Drodskie says.

An acceptable policy according to her will include:

  • The greater importance of  renewable energy sources;
  • Suitable accessibility to independent power producers;
  • The role of Eskom vis-à-vis other service providers in the matters of generation, transmission and distribution;
  • A clear and transparent decision regarding the use of nuclear energy, thought by many to be beyond the country’s capacity to meet the costs;
  • The control of municipal abuses in respect of tariffs, including profiteering; and
  • The harmonisation of tariffs.

Former SACCI CEO and current Director of External Affairs and External Communications at MSA,Neren Rau, proposed the third motion which highlighted that in the implementation of a National Minimum Wage, consideration must be given to adverse consequences as shown in international precedents and measures introduced to mitigate these.

“Research into the effectiveness of basic minimum wages in other countries throughout the world has not shown them to be universally successful. However, the government has made the commitment to the introduction of the National Minimum Wage Act (NMWA), and SACCI’s plea is for international precedents to be considered in the development of the regulations and the implementation. SACCI’s view is that the introduction of the NMWA is ill-timed in view of the country’s economic woes. Not only are there more important issues that require priority attention, but it will add to the regulatory woes of small and medium businesses and inhibit employment in this sector,” he says.

In particular, Rau points out that:  

  • wage adjustments must be linked to productivity and not CPI;
  • the level of wage must be determined by local economic circumstances and not be subject to the principle of ‘one size fits all’;
  • careful consideration must be given to special cases, such as trainees, apprentices etc;
  • there should be a turnover threshold below which the NMW is not applicable to the particular enterprise; and
  • a process of appeal for exemption must be entertained.

SACCI has already submitted to the parliamentary portfolio committee its belief that the introduction of a NMW is ill-advised in the present economic climate.  However, the decision to introduce it was taken, with a planned review in 2016.

The fourth motion proposed by Anna-Marth Ott from the Middelburg Chamber of Commerce, highlighted that in acknowledgement of the extremely disappointing rate of skills development, especially in critical areas, the SETA system must be re-assessed to establish whether a more successful mechanism for the management of skills levy income can be found.

“Despite vast sums of money paid by employers in Skills Development levies, most SETAs have failed to deliver on the country’s needs as a consequence of their mismanagement, inefficiencies and discouragement by the slow payment of discretionary grants and the inadequate opportunities afforded to levy-payers,” she says.

The particular deficiencies as a result of which the business community has lost confidence in the SETAs include:

  • inordinate delay in the payment of discretionary funds despite authorisation having been granted;
  • far too limited opportunities offered to companies wishing to access discretionary funding.  (Short ‘windows’ occurring months in advance are inadequate to deal with the country’s skills shortages.);
  • sheer incompetence and inefficiency in many cases;
  • the fact that there remains a serious shortfall in the skills needed by the country;
  • inaccessibility, vacant positions and a serious lack of leadership in many cases.

Michael Meiring

 

 

 

 

 

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