President Cyril Ramaphosa said the COVID-19 pandemic had triggered what was likely going to be the deepest global recession post the war period, likening it to the Great Depression.
Despite this, the president said this had not diminished government’s determination to drive what he called an ambitious and sustainable infrastructure programme.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the sustainable infrastructure development symposium in Pretoria on Tuesday.
He told the over 600 attendees of the gathering, both physically and virtually, that despite the severe damage COVID-19 continued to wreck on economies, the case for infrastructure planning and implementation was even more compelling.
The crisis has exposed the country’s long-existing spatial injustices among other infrastructural issues.
Ramaphosa explained that other countries worldwide are looking at how infrastructure can lead to the revival of their struggling economies.
“Infrastructure investment is also an important signal to the economy that investment and expansion is happening, which will improve consumer and business confidence.”
The country’s economic growth is expected to contract by up to 7% this year, while the unemployment rate has been confirmed to now be at over 30%.
Ramaphosa said unlocking the construction industry and other related services through public-private partnerships would result in the creation of much-needed jobs.
SETTING TRANSFORMATION TARGETS IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Ramaphosa said government would set transformation targets in the construction industry and other related sectors when it carries out its multi-billion-rand sustainable infrastructure development programmes.
He said the programmes would be used to support black infrastructure service providers.
“This is an industry, which needs to be transformed with regards to the ownership of the various plans in the industry. It needs to be transformed in relation to participation, abilities and skills layout in the industry.”
While government has little fiscal space to invest in infrastructure, it has appealed to the private sector to come to the party.
Ramaphosa said some measures would also be enforced to widen participation in low-cost housing.
“We need instruments to allow the private sector to participate in the low-income housing market.”
The president has described infrastructure investment as a critical driver of future growth in the country.