President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended SA’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying while it led to economic contraction, countries who took fewer measures to curb the spread of the virus, suffered even bigger losses.
He said this on Wednesday while responding to MPs who poked holes at his economic recovery plan announced last week.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said it was “disingenuous” of Ramaphosa to blame the slump in the economy on the Covid-19 pandemic. He said SA’s economy had long been in a crisis from decades of neglect.
“Covid-19 did not destroy our economy. We’re trying to recover from decades of bad governance and poor ANC policies, and it is disingenuous and opportunistic to try to claim otherwise. We were in junk status long before anyone had heard of the word coronavirus.”
He blamed the collapse of the economy on the government’s “heavy-handed” response.
“The longest, most unscientific lockdown in the world. That is what closed down factories, restaurants, retailers and thousands of other businesses and that what has also destroyed our tourism industry,” added Steenhuisen.
Here are important quotes from the president’s response to the debate:
The plan is different
“If you read between those lines and paragraphs, and if we all take time to look at this plan carefully, we will find that there is a new determination. This plan is underpinned by the participation of the social partners we have in our country. It outlines immediate actions to rebuild the economy and to provide jobs and relief for the people of our country.”
“I have decried the fact that we have not been investing in infrastructure, let alone even maintaining our current infrastructure. I have to talk about [this] all the time because infrastructure investment is what defines a nation, and we are now seeing a real robust and aggressive infrastructure investment programme.”
Nothing wrong with lockdown
“It is true that the measures that were necessary to delay the spread of the virus and prevent deaths led to a sharp decline in economic activity. There is now evidence that the economic contraction has been worse in countries that took fewer measures to protect their people.”
Recovering from the economic decline
“We have to recover jobs that were lost, as we had to shut down much of the economy, to alleviate the plight of the people who were already jobless before the pandemic. That is why we need to build an inclusive economy out of the ashes of this pandemic … To ensure that our efforts are focused, our plan is driven by five key priorities [including] infrastructure investments, an employment stimulus and energy security.”
“Our immediate focus is job creation because many of our people have lost jobs. But even before then, our unemployment rate has been growing at alarming levels over a number of years. The plan recognises that the private sector is by far the biggest driver of employment. That is why the plan emphasises growth-enhancing measures that enable businesses to thrive.”