South Africa to Unveil Plan to Rescue 'Vulnerable' Sectors

The rescue plan will include a combination of trade, industrial and social policy measures.

Over the next month South Africa will unveil a rescue plan for "vulnerable" economic sectors in a bid to reduce the impact of the global economic crisis on employment, an official document said Feb. 20.

The document identified mining, automobile, clothing, footwear, textile, retail, housing construction and manufacturing as "vulnerable sectors" that are critical to the fight against the global downturn. The rescue plan will include "a combination of trade, industrial and social policy measures" as well as inputs from the private sector, said the document, without providing further details.

The document, prepared by an economic group -- including labor, business and government representatives.

The crux of the state intervention will be prevention of job losses and the fight against poverty in a country where unemployment rates hover around 40%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development figures. About 70,000 jobs were lost in South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse, in the third quarter of last year while some additional 250,000 others are being threatened this year.

After several years of rapid expansion, South Africa's economic growth is set to plunge to a decade-low point of 1.2% this year as from 3.1% last year.

In order to boost prospects of long-term economic growth, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced last week that the country would pour billions of dollars into public infrastructure investment such as energy, transport, housing for the poor, health and education.

Some 787 billion rand (US$77 billion) would be spent over three years on infrastructure development. The government would also review the modalities for distribution and control of state funds, often not spent as a result of weakness in local and provincial administrations.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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